Siblings learn value of volunteering at young age

Doin' it right

Posted: Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Matt and KT Peters have made a lifetime out of volunteering, and they are only 20 and 18 years old, respectively.

The brother and sister got their start as volunteers at the Kenai Community Library, where they both stocked shelves on a weekly basis.

"I only wanted to do it because Matt did it," said KT, admitting that her introduction to volunteering was a case of wanting to copy her older brother. "I thought I could do anything he did."

Both Matt and KT were acknowledged by the city of Kenai with a mayoral proclamation for their work at the library. At 10 and 8, they were the youngest regular volunteers in the community.

"I remember that I didn't want to go sit through the ceremony but when they recognized us, it felt pretty good," she said, adding that shelving books wasn't all that motivated them to visit the library.

"I liked it. There were bowls of candy and the women would fawn over you."

Since those days, though, KT and Matt have moved beyond candy as an incentive to volunteer. What they get now doesn't come in bright plastic wrappers.

"If you can get behind a cause or if you can help people in need, it is the most satisfying thing you can do with your time," said Matt, who will be a junior at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., this fall.

At school he volunteers his time for the campus radio station, KSLC, as both a disc jockey and doing office work. He also writes for the Linfield Review, the college's weekly paper.

"It's a good way to meet like-minded people," he said. "I myself have a hard time deciding how committed to get because little groups run only by volunteers can use someone for everything. If it can fit into my schedule, I will sacrifice more recreational activities."

KT, too, has remained an active volunteer in her new home of Lincoln, Neb., where she attends the University of Nebraska.

As a part of the chancellor's leadership program at UNL, she helped organize a fire safety day for the children of the city. As a member of a sorority at school, she also worked with the Lighthouse Foundation, an after-school center for at-risk youth.

"I miss (kids), when I'm on campus around people all the same age. I love being around kids," she said.

While KT's experience is more oriented around working with children and other groups and Matt has chosen areas where he is gaining practical work experience, both agree that combining an interest, or a hobby, with a volunteering opportunity is the right way to go.

"Luckily, the things I've done, I've enjoyed. If it was something I thought wasn't helping I wouldn't go back and do it again," KT said.

But, that isn't to say that the only way KT and Matt feel they help others is when they work directly with people.


Matt, at age 12, shelves books at the Kenai Community Library

Photo courtesy of the Peters family

For example, as a part of being one of the 100 nationwide recipients of the Toyota Community Scholar Award, KT went to Kentucky. While she was there, the group had an opportunity to work at a battered women's shelter.

The students had no direct contact with the women. They filed and did other office duties. However, through her behind-the-scenes work, KT said she could still see how filing made a difference for the agency.

"It made me feel like I was helping this building," she said. "There's always something people can do."

Whether it is serving on a board of an organization or working with the population, Matt agreed with KT that anything someone does is worth their while.

"I think it's easier to see the results with more direct service, but if you can see the big picture anywhere you can get involved, get behind and push," he said.

Matt and KT both said they believe they have a commitment to volunteering in part due to their parents and partially thanks to the educational system on the Kenai Peninsula.

"Both of our parents are kind, compassionate, giving people. Both of them have an excellent work ethic," KT said.

"I thought KCHS was good at getting kids to volunteer," Matt said as KT added to his comment.

"I think that (schools) can have a great impact. It gets them (students) started. Maybe not every kid will stick with it, but some," she said. "It was instilled in us when we were little."

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