Volunteering is part of many people’s lives, but one local woman goes above and beyond the call of community duty to help others.
“People will find time for things that are important to them. My calendar just happens to be full with a lot of things that are important to me,” Robin Balke said with a laugh.
Balke isn’t a Sedalia native, but she’s lived in the area for much of her life after her family moved to Missouri in the late 1970s from Waterloo, Iowa, when her dad was transferred to the Waterloo Industries plant in Sedalia. She is the Regional Manager for IMKO Workforce Solutions, overseeing offices in Sedalia, Boonville and Jefferson City.
In addition to her professional resume, her extracurricular resume could fill an entire page: volunteer for Boys & Girls Clubs of West Central Missouri, Child Safe of Central Missouri and Memory Lane Foundation for Suicide Prevention; Human Resource Management Association of West Central Missouri board member and Program Director; member of Pettis County Industrial Safety Council and Pettis County Workforce Development Board’s NEXUS Group; mentor and volunteer for Pettis County Juvenile Office’s Youth Drug Court program; Whiteman Air Force Base Community Council member; Sedalia Business Women member; and involved with the Missouri Joining Community Forces Council.
“For me it’s realizing the impact certain organizations have on the community and what makes Sedalia such a wonderful community is because of all those supporting organizations and groups,” Balke said last week in the IMKO conference room, surrounded by paintings she asked to be created by Cole Camp students. “I’ve had people ask me to join (other clubs) and I’ve had to turn them down because I just don’t know how I can fit it in.
“I probably could be more involved if I really wanted to, but at this point, I’m one of those people who if I say I’m going to be a part of something, I don’t want to do it in name only. I want to actually give of my time. Some things only take an hour or two a month, some take more depending on what they have going on, but I don’t want to join just to say, ‘Oh, I belong to this,’ and not ever be part of what’s going on with it.
“… When you’re living in a community, I don’t want to say you have an obligation, but you really almost have a responsibility to take pride in your community and you want to do what you can to help make it better. It’s easy for people to sit at home and criticize on social media, but if they’re not willing to actually get out and be a part of it, not only from a knowledge standpoint, but also to have a say in it.”
Balke said children’s organizations are “near and dear to my heart,” stemming from her mother operating a day-care and from her time as a juvenile officer with the Pettis County Juvenile Office.
If Balke can’t volunteer, donate or attend an event, she still shares the information on social media to help spread the word. She also attends Sedalia City Council meetings when she can to learn more about her city.
“I’m one of those people who would rather see and hear it for myself before I form opinions on things than to just take the word of someone telling me something,” she said.
She is also a member of the Chamber of Commerce in Jefferson City, Columbia and Boonville, and is President-Elect of the Sedalia Area Chamber of Commerce. In Sedalia, she serves on the Chamber’s Business Development and Military Affairs committees. Once she takes over as Chamber president, she will be the first woman to do so in Sedalia.
“I know the importance of local businesses working together to support each other and the Chamber is a great way to not only promote your business, but to learn about other businesses, so when it comes time that I need a product or service, I can do that locally,” she said of her Chamber involvement.
Balke is also a proud mom to Susan, who works at a law firm in Kansas City, and Connor, who will be a junior at the University of Central Missouri this fall majoring in Crisis and Disaster Management. She said she’s happy to know her philosophy of giving back is rubbing off on them.
“I think it’s important to teach our kids to be involved in the community and give back, support local events and activities. I see my daughter doing that in Kansas City. … And my son with the line of work he wants to do, that’s helping people,” she said. “It’s just nice to know those things were taught to me, work ethic and caring about other people is what my parents taught us, and so I feel like I’m continuing that legacy in a small way.”
With everything Balke takes part in, she often gets asked how she fits it all in her schedule.
“(If you get involved in one group) you’re not talking about a lot of time in a month. An hour or two a month, maybe. Other things you can volunteer on an as-needed basis when they have a special event …” she said. “I’ve said for a long time, if everybody would just choose one organization … and just give of your time, just a few hours a year would make such a huge difference to those organizations. I think it would have more of an impact on the people that do it … when you’re helping an organization that helps other people, you tend to care about that a little more.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.