Daily Point of Light # 2673 May 4, 2004

Serving is nothing new for Karene Ryan. She has a long history of using her talents and skills to benefit children in Washington County Nebraska. In June of 2001, Ryan answered yet another call to service when she agreed to provide leadership to a new project being launched in the county.

An incentive program modeled after the March of Dime’s Storks Nests, the purpose of the Building Blocks Boutique is to enhance birth outcomes. To encourage families to adopt lifestyles behaviors which will result in healthy babies, the Boutique stocks baby goods and provides them as tangible rewards to families who earn points by routinely attending pre-natal and well-baby checks, securing immunizations, using car seats or attending classes to enhance their parenting skills and earning capacity.

While the idea for the Boutique came from a group of professionals in the community, it was clear that the program could not succeed without the support of the community. Ms. Ryan stepped up to the plate. She has done the legwork to get the project off the ground, and she has been the backbone that has sustained the effort. Although she is currently employed outside the home, Ms. Ryan devotes her energies to the Boutique as if it were her full-time job. Her innovative management styles has been indispensable in developing a program that is both responsive to clientele needs while being operated entirely by volunteers on a tight budget.

Ms. Ryan began her efforts by manning a booth at local WIC clinics to recruit participants to the program. As volunteer coordinator for the Boutique, she currently recruits and trains volunteers, manages inventory, makes decisions about program administration, follows up on client requests and communicates clientele needs to board members and to the general public. As strong advocate for the Boutique, Ms. Ryan also actively solicits donations needed to sustain the program.

Aside from her management skills, Ms. Ryan’s most important contribution is her role as a liaison linking young families to programs and services in the community. Because of her years of professional experience as a medical assistant in the family practice and OB/GYN clinics as well as her experiences operating a childcare facility, she is intimately familiar with the issues facing young families today. This awareness is complemented by her tremendous knowledge of resources available in the community to meet those needs.

Although Ms. Ryan is an introvert, she makes it her special duty to volunteer and help others. The leadership she has provided to the Building Blocks Boutique is especially exemplary. Her dedicated service has made it possible to provide a positive, life-changing experience that is making a difference to many young families in Washington County. In just 16 short months, she has single-handedly taken the program from conceptual stages to a program that provides reliable service on a regular basis. The program is open twice each month and currently has an excess of 100 families enrolled.