Being a former teacher, Newton's Connie Rickard has a knack for helping children — part of what led her to her current work as Director of Trinity Heights Respite Care.

"I was always involved with students and engaged in their different abilities," Rickard said. "It didn't make any difference to me what the ability of a child was, I wanted to teach them."

Shortly after retirement, Rickard took the position with Trinity Heights Respite Care, as it seemed to be a natural fit. Rickard knew about the program that serves families who have children with special needs (i.e. physical, learning, sensory or cognitive disabilities) being a member of Trinity Heights United Methodist Church, the host site of the program. She was also familiar with several of the families and children, having served as a special education music teacher at Chisholm Middle School for six years.

Now in her fifth year as director, Rickard and the care providers associated with the program mainly assist families in Harvey and Marion counties in two ways — providing in-home care and offering a Parents Day Out — allowing for parents to alleviate stress and giving them a break to go to a movie, on a grocery run, etc., through those services.

Additionally, those outlets provide plenty for the children (0-16) with special needs — particularly the Parents Day Out, which is traditionally held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the third Saturday of each month.

"We provide a lot of opportunities for the kids," Rickard said. "We have games that they can play, they have interaction with other kids; they're not singled out because they're all having fun together."

Currently, Rickard is working with her former school to provide a special opportunity at December's Parents Day Out. She is making a sing-along video with CMS music students to share with kids who come to December's event.

Outside of respite care, Rickard has also stayed very involved in schools serving as a substitute teacher and being a member of the Kansas Association of Retired School Personnel. She is also active at Trinity Heights as a Sunday School teacher, Bible School teacher and more.

Music plays a big role in her involvement, Rickard said, as it got her out into the community whether through performing or helping with clinics. She noted growing up in a small town (Protection) in western Kansas, and growing up on a farm, volunteering and doing a little bit of everything became second nature.

Knowing musical abilities vary also opened Rickard's eyes to what anybody, no matter the ability level, can accomplish given the opportunity — and Rickard is happy to give the families in respite care those opportunities.

"It's figuring out how we can help them and finding other resources for them and letting them know that if they need something they can call me and I will be there to help them," Rickard said.

Getting involved in the community is something Rickard noted she always encouraged her students to do, whether performing at their churches or elsewhere, and it is something she encourages anyone to consider given the great joy she has taken in helping Trinity Heights Respite Care.

"No matter how much you can give, and if it can only be a little, the reward of giving is so much more than you can ever receive," Rickard said. "If you can look and say, 'I've made a difference in just a little part of this world,' that's more than anything else."

For more information on Trinity Heights Respite Care, visit trinityheightsumc.org or call 316-283-6441.