Bev Timmons was the school nurse at Shawnee Mission East High School in the mid-1980s when a student walked through her door concerned about the babies of the crack epidemic.
Timmons was the staff facilitator of East’s SHARE program, an innovative student club designed to promote community service. Kids were encouraged to take the initiative. East students began visiting a special needs nursery in Kansas City, Kan., to rock and cuddle babies born to drug addicts. From this project and other early seeds, SHARE grew into the largest program of its kind in the nation. SHARE celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
“A kid will never forget the experience of cradling a baby in the inner city,” Timmons recently recalled. “They’ll always know there are people out there in need, and we’re all part of a larger community where people are suffering.”
After three decades, SHARE has become a cornerstone of Lancer life, although participation is completely voluntary. Each year, students take on 30 to 40 projects, ranging from a dodgeball tournament to benefit needy families at Christmas, to stuffing Harvesters “backsnacks,” to the “Jeans 4 Genes” fundraiser to fight rare genetic disorders—to name just a few.
Last autumn, the annual Senior Service Day drew an impressive 83 percent of the senior class on a day when school was out. Hundreds of students fanned out across the metro area to clean creeks, help hospice patients, visit the elderly and feed the homeless.
“It’s definitely played a role in who I’ve become as a person,” said Chase Tetrick, a member of the Class of 2017 who serves on SHARE’s executive board. “It used to be, ‘I have to make the soccer team, I have to play golf.’ ” Participation in the program has drawn him out of that adolescent bubble. “It’s really cool to be part of a group asking how we can affect more people in our community.”
Tetrick’s favorite project has been “School Buddies,” which partners SME students with elementary schools in the area. In a second grade class at Rosehill Elementary, Tetrick spent many early hours helping kids with their “morning work.” “I really got to know the kids, and that was great,” said Tetrick.
One thing that sets SHARE apart from other school-based community service programs is that the projects are completely student-planned and led. The only parental involvement: finding the money to pay for the logistics—which require coordination of hundreds of kids traveling to dozens of projects each year.
SHARE’s signature fundraiser is “Renovation Sensation,” a popular homes tour now in its 13th year. This year’s tour, on Sept. 14, features four homes in Old Leawood, Mission Hills and Fairway, showcasing the latest in designer and construction trends.
In the early days of SHARE, a group of boys approched Timmons with the bold notion of building an entire home for Habitat for Humanity. The project seemed overwhelming—starting with the $40,000 price tag for materials. But SME students got busy and raised the money through a 5K “Hab-A-Trot,” a giant rummage sale, and an invitation to donors to “sponsor” each two-by-four. The finished home would become known as “The House that East Built.”
As a nurse, Timmons felt that SHARE was part of helping kids be healthy. Teen drug use was an issue of national importance—Nancy Reagan urged Americans to “Just Say No”—and Timmons loved offering kids a safe and meaningful alternative.
Schools from across the U.S. have contacted SHARE leaders for tips on setting up similar programs of their own. But Timmons believes that East has one advantage that is hard to replicate: Johnson County. “That’s the blessing,” she said. “We can do it big because we live in such a giving community.”