April 12, 2023 | Supporters

Recognizing Volunteers

Unbound celebrates the contributions of volunteers in the U.S. and around the world

By Loretta Shea Kline

Volunteers play an important role in the Unbound community — giving their time and talents at the international headquarters in Kansas City, across the U.S. and around the world.

Unbound recognizes the contributions of volunteers year round but especially during Global Volunteer Month in April and National Volunteer Week, celebrated in 2023 on April 16-22.

Volunteers support Unbound’s mission in myriad ways. They serve on the governing board. They prepare mailings of letters and photos from sponsored friends to their sponsors. They lead tours at Unbound headquarters.

They assist preachers at Unbound weekends in churches throughout the country. They write letters of encouragement to children waiting for sponsors. They share Unbound with family and friends and on social media.

And the list goes on.

“Volunteers make a positive difference with Unbound on a daily basis,” Program Development Director Dawn Owens said. “We couldn’t make the impact we do without them.”


Volunteer Pat Coleman helps prepare mailings with photos and correspondence between sponsored children and elders and their sponsors. Service Center volunteers are key to Unbound’s ability to facilitate communication between sponsors and their sponsored friends. 


Stacks of children’s and elders’ letters await mailing to sponsors. Volunteers process hundreds of thousands of letters each year. 

Dedicated and passionate service

Many volunteers also sponsor a child, youth or elder through Unbound. They believe in their sponsored friends and in the mission of Unbound to “walk with” the world’s poor and marginalized people.

“The special gifts sponsors bring to their service with Unbound are their enthusiasm for our mission and the belief that one person can make such a difference in the life of someone living in poverty,” Owens said.

That enthusiasm extends beyond the U.S. to communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America where Unbound works. Mothers and fathers of sponsored children, sponsored elders, Unbound scholarship students and others are volunteering for Agents of Change community improvement projects, disaster response and community gardens. They're taking leadership roles in parent groups, helping children write letters to their sponsors and much more.

Volunteer and sponsor Frank Franko has traveled overseas on awareness trips with Unbound and has seen firsthand the impact sponsored individuals and their families are having in their communities. That motivates him even more to want to give back. Franko helps with mailings in the Unbound Service Center in Kansas City.

“You develop family relationships with the youth and the elderly that are sponsored, and those relationships really continue by being a volunteer,” Franko said. “I have a chance to see communication from the elderly and the youth, and I could play a small part in that by just being a volunteer.”

Service Center Coordinator Hillary Batliner sees the results of volunteers’ efforts in fostering relationships.

“Unbound volunteers selflessly give their time and energy to our Service Center by preparing large batches of mailings, with annual child photos and child letters, to go to sponsors,” Batliner said. “Their work positively impacts people living all around the world, connecting sponsored friends with their sponsors, and furthering Unbound's mission of walking with the poor.”


Doris Hidalgo Adams (left) and Father John Anglin at Holy Angels Church in Oklahoma City. Now a sponsor, Adams was herself sponsored as a child growing up in Nicaragua. She helped at the sponsorship table when Father Anglin invited parishioners to connect with a child or elder in need. 


Kylie Hays assists Father John Gillespie at the sponsorship table at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Shawnee, Kansas. Volunteers are a tremendous help to Unbound priests as they answer questions and help parishioners sign up to sponsor a child or elder. 

Bringing sponsorship to faith communities

Volunteer Coordinator Maureen Ortiz said having sponsors volunteer at Unbound weekends at Catholic parishes not only gives the priests who are preaching for Unbound support, it shows fellow church members that Unbound is an organization they can trust.

“Our sponsors love to volunteer, and some are willing to travel many miles to support our priests,” Ortiz said. “Many of them say it gives them a sense of being a bigger part of Unbound and a good feeling to know that they are doing more to help the families and share the mission of Unbound.”

One such volunteer is Doris Hidalgo Adams, who sponsors a child in Guatemala. She has a special perspective on the benefits of child sponsorship because she was sponsored through Unbound as a child growing up in Nicaragua. She helped at the sponsorship table at Holy Angels Church when Franciscan Father John Anglin visited Oklahoma City to preach for Unbound.

“It was fun to get to know people from the community, and to get to see the passion of Father John about Unbound was really inspiring,” she said. “It’s not really about me, but I feel like I’m giving back in a way.”

In the U.S. alone in 2022, Unbound had a total of 2,228 volunteers giving 6,255 hours, Owens said. So far in 2023, there have already been 586 volunteers across the U.S. donating 1,468 hours.


David Herbison, a longtime Unbound board member and chief governing officer, and Abby Marie Rohr, a director on the board, prepare to cut the ribbon for the opening of the Unbound Experience at the Kansas City headquarters in February 2020.  All voting members of the Unbound Governing Board are volunteers.

Volunteers transforming the world

Points of Light, an organization that aims to “create a society where it’s easy to take action,” said Global Volunteer Month and National Volunteer Week offer opportunities to “recognize the impact of volunteer service and the power of volunteers to tackle society’s greatest challenges, to build stronger communities and be a force that transforms the world.”

That’s precisely why sponsor Steve Roth chooses to volunteer in the Unbound Service Center in Kansas City.

“Some of the emotions that we experience when we’re volunteering, my wife, Cheryl, and I were talking about this today,” Roth said. “When you’re looking at that picture and it’s going to somebody in Kalamazoo, Michigan, or somewhere else, these are real people.

“This isn’t just a letter or a check. These are real people that you are interfacing with and helping people become part of [the Unbound community], and that just really makes you feel good.”


Maricel, mother of sponsored children Irish and John in the Philippines, led an effort to provide a motorboat to serve as an ambulance to transport sick patients across the Angat River. Parents of sponsored children volunteer in their communities in numerous ways including Agents of Change. Volunteers lead the way in identifying needs in their communities, proposing solutions and carrying out improvement projects with grants from Unbound.

The special gifts sponsors bring to their service with Unbound are their enthusiasm for our mission and the belief that one person can make such a difference in the life of someone living in poverty.

— Dawn Owens, Unbound Program Development Director