Karen Boone always knew she’d be a community volunteer.
Growing up in a politically aware, socially concerned family, she watched her parents play leading roles in the Headstart program and their church. “I had a thirst to become involved in the community, but I was ignorant about how to do it,” says Boone.
Today, she volunteers on a dozen different boards and committees.
Boone is also the new director of the Institute for Neighborhood Leadership, based at the Northeast Community Center.
“I’ve wanted to work in this sort of position ever since I was in high school,” she says.
But Boone, 37, admits life experiences since then have made her a better, more sensitive volunteer. “I couldn’t have done this after high school,” she says. “I grew up in the working class. I didn’t understand the issues of poverty, because I hadn’t seen or experienced it.”
The Spokane leadership program trains citizens to become more active in their communities. As director and Americorps/VISTA volunteer, Boone is paid $7,000 annually through a mix of local and federal funds.
Graduates of the two-year-old program are involved with a variety of community organizations.
“These people aren’t going for the glorious positions, they’re taking on the menial tasks and doing what needs to be done to make a difference in their community,” says Boone.
“So often we leave it to the elected officials to handle the affairs of our community,” she says.
William Dillon, director of the Northeast Community Center, knew of Boone and her work before she applied for the job. “I’ve always been impressed with her commitment to community, her insight, and her even-handedness,” he says.
“She has prepared herself for a position of leadership, and has very clear goals. She has a passionate commitment to help,” he adds. Boone grew up in Jackson, Miss., and her family moved to North Spokane when she was in the 10th grade.
Boone married soon after she graduated from Rogers High School. Her husband was in the Air Force and they moved frequently. The marriage ended in divorce.
Boone returned to Spokane in 1987, determined to make a life for herself and her three young children.
While waiting a year to establish residency before returning to college, she decided to volunteer.
“I wanted to become a part of the community, to fit in,” she says.
She signed on with the March of Dimes, served as a voter registrar, became a Camp Fire leader and joined Blacks in Government.
In 1991 she graduated from Spokane Community College, then continued to Eastern Washington University where she is a nearing graduation with a double major in government and liberal studies.
While pursuing her degree and raising her children, she expanded her volunteer work.
She’s on the board of directors for the Center on Social Welfare Policy and Law, Washington Women United and is vice chair of the Human Services Advisory Board for the City of Spokane.
Just to mention a few.
When the Americorps/VISTA program opening came along, Boone saw it as an opportunity to blend her education and volunteer experience.
“It is a chance to promote my belief that people should be empowered to make changes in their communities.
“Once we have the tools, we can do for ourselves.” , DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Leadership series The Institute for Neighborhood Leadership is a free six-week program that teaches skills to volunteers who want to become more active in their communities. The next series begins with an orientation session on Feb. 26 at East Central Community Center. Classes then meet once a week from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., on Wednesdays at East Central Community Center and on Thursdays at West Central Community Center. Students learn communication skills, Robert’s Rules of Order, goal setting and networking, public speaking, negotiating and how to build neighborhood coalitions. For more information, call the Northeast Community Center, 487-1603.
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