AEO Building a Better World Volunteer of the Month: Anna, Lead III – Operational Safety Training

AEO associates share our commitment to doing better, being better and building a better world. We’re proud to spotlight our people who are making a real and lasting impact in their communities.

Meet Anna, Lead III – Operational Safety Training for our Ottawa, KS distribution center. An active volunteer of nine years across multiple organizations, Anna values giving back to the community that gave to her in a time of need.

Tell us about your volunteer service in the Ottawa community!

I volunteer with a variety of groups in Ottawa. I am a member of the Ottawa Police Foundation which holds events like Bike Safety in partnership with the Ottawa Recreation Commission and DARE Camp. I also deliver Meals on Wheels throughout the month.

Associates from our AEO team work with the Ottawa Main Street Association to maintain a small community garden downtown. Our maintenance team built us a blessing box which helped inspire a group of ten other locals to create a Blessing Box Foundation. We have approximately 10-12 Blessing Boxes located throughout the city of Ottawa. It’s great to see how many people donate and use them!

Can you tell us more about your favorite organization to volunteer with?

It’s hard to pick a favorite organization– they all do so many different and great things for our community. I really enjoy working with the Police Foundation as it gives me a unique perspective on the true needs of our community. Additionally, I have made some wonderful new friends through Meals on Wheels and love hearing their life experiences– there is such value in hearing others’ stories.

How many years have you volunteered? 

I have been an active volunteer with the Ottawa Police Foundation for three years and Meals on Wheels for five years. When I moved to Ottawa to work at AEO, it was a time in my life where I needed to use some of the food pantries and resources our community provided. When I was finally able to get to a better place, I wanted to give back since people were so generous to me. I will always continue to try and contribute to our community as best I can. I am blessed that my wife Erin is also compassionate about giving back and has joined me in trying to help make our community a better place. 

How do you think that being an active participant in your community helps to Build a Better World?

You never know what someone is going through or where they are at in their life. We have a very eclectic community in Ottawa– I never thought I would enjoy living in small-town Kansas, but the people I have met and friends I have made volunteering remind me of all the good in the world. You constantly see the Blessing Box post on social media that a local organization donated meals to give away. It’s inspiring to see different organizations work together to provide positive education experiences for our children so they have a pathway to success. We have organizations for everyone—from unhoused animals to unhoused people—and they all work together to try and extinguish poverty and provide aid for those who need it. It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of a community like that. 

What are some of the benefits and learnings you’ve gained from volunteering?

When I was younger, we didn’t have a lot of money, and the biggest lesson I learned during that time was that it’s okay to understand where you are in life and ask for help… but most importantly, never forget that when things get better, give back when you can. I have felt blessed to find my career at AEO and it has given me growth and many opportunities to learn more about my community and its needs so I can give back the best way that I can. I have made friends, created a change, and I can actively see the good in others in our community – like the Blessing Boxes creed and motto: Be the Change and Everyone is Welcome.