Pat Hudgins looks at the Manhattan community like a quilt; each person or group — retired people, military families or college students — contribute to the whole. She said each social service and volunteer organization creates the thread that holds the community together, and without it the community, like the quilt, would fall apart.
Hudgins works with several groups throughout the community as a volunteer or member of a board.
“When I see a need, I like to put my hand to it,” she said. “Even if it is for a short time.”
Hudgins serves as a member of a USD 383 site coucil. She has served since her three children started school. Her oldest, 21 already graduated, but the younger two are still in high school and junior high. She said the site council is “the heartbeat of the school” for parents.
Hudgins also mentors multi-cultural students at Kansas State University. She said this year she is helping a group of students from Ecuador. When the first cold snap occurred in early October, she said she realized many of the students didn’t have coats. So she organized a coat drive.
She also helps with other aspects of college life.
“A lot of minority students get into college but have no support system at home,” Hudgins said. “They might have tuition and books covered, but what about food, clothing and a place to live?”
Hudgins said mentoring is an investment that doesn’t always show a return immediately. She said she understands that college students might not be a productive part of this community per se, but helping them now will allow them to be a productive part of some other community in the future. As a mentor, she helps students with homework, finding a part-time job or just listens to them when they are struggling with personal issues.
Hudgins is also a volunteer advocate for a senior citizens in a local nursing home, adopts families for Thanksgiving and Christmas and sends out greeting cards to widows, widowers and single moms she has encountered as a way of making them feel they are valued in the community.
Hudgins said that she is concerned the community doesn’t do more for the military families.
“As a community, we are losing out on an opportunity to help,” Hudgins said. “These families could stay here if they had the support of the community instead of going somewhere else when their spouses are deployed.”
She said that the military families are ignored for the most part, and she would like to see that changed.
Hudgins said she thinks charitable organizations in the community are vital and should be supported so they can provide help to those in need. She said when a disaster — like Hurricane Sandy or the tornado of 2008 — stikes, people flock to charitable organizations by volunteering or by sending money or gifts. But when there is no disaster, people forget there are still members of the community who need help. She said that while needs of the community ebb and flow, a part of each organization needs to remain during times of general prosperity to assist those who may be struggling. She said social organizations are like an umbrella. Everyone needs to be protected when it rains, but it doesn’t rain all the time.
“Each spoke of that umbrella is important in its own way, but it takes people to volunteer in their own way to make the community better,” she said.
She said she doesn’t volunteer for community service for recognition or to win awards; she does it because she wants to make a difference in the community today to make a better community in the future.
“When we know a difference, that’s when we should make a difference,” Hudgins said.