Growing up in a military family, Jennifer Vogts moved around a lot as child, so there was never really an opportunity for community investment — until she moved to North Newton in 2003.
Once she planted her roots, a floodgate of opportunities to help the community was opened to Vogts and she was quick to take a chance and get involved with many of them — eventually leading her to be named one of 2018's Newton Women of the Year.
Looking for an initial way to get involved, Vogts was informed of the Women's Community Foundation and its local impact. Managed under the umbrella of the Central Kansas Community Foundation, the WCF is a philanthropic endeavor for women to pool their resources and grant funds to worthy causes (i.e. Safehope, Newton Meals on Wheels, etc.) — and Vogts said serving on the grant selection committee opened her eyes to all the empowering work going on around the community, which she said was a gateway into her current level of involvement.
"Being involved with the Women's Community Fund is really what kind of lit a fire for me to go see what else I could get involved with. That gave me a very good idea of how great the needs of our community are, the things that our executive directors and their staff are doing about it, and the more I read, the more I wanted to get involved, so it kind of snowballed from there," Vogts said. "Our town is so full of wonderful things going on to help each other out that it's hard not to want to get involved with that kind of positivity. It kind of got away from me and I kind of started making a career out of volunteering."
Vogts quickly also got involved with the WCF's parent organization, the CKCF, as well as serving as a founding member of another offshoot — the North Newton Community Foundation. In addition, she has served on boards for Carriage Factory Art Gallery, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Safehope and a handful of other non-profits. Seemingly, Vogts hasn't found a cause she can't support, noting she "loves it all."
While part of Vogts' reasoning for getting settled was partly to do with benefitting her family, she noted that getting tuned in with the altruistic side of the community only strengthened her own connection and dedication to being a part of it.
"Living here in one place, my roots have grown deeper. I have a great appreciation for everyone who is involved with this community, how hard they work, their creativity and just doing what they can to make Newton a really great place to live," Vogts said. "They more I learned about their programs and how hard they were working, the more I wanted to help."
That willingness to help has not gone unnoticed, with the recent Woman of the Year recognition highlighting the ability of Vogts to see a way to effect change on a big picture scale, while those who nominated her were quick to point out her dedication to assist in even the smallest of ways (i.e. mailings, event clean-up, etc.), whether supporting the efforts of friends and family or non-profits around Newton.
Receiving the distinguished honor of being one of 2018's Newton Women of the Year, Vogts admitted she experienced a range of emotions when she heard the news.
"It started with shock and then such gratitude, and then I was extremely honored because one of the first questions I had was 'who else won,' because I know that they select three women every year," Vogts said. "When I heard that it was Judge Wilder and Pam Stevens, I was really honored to just be included in the group of women."
Quick to defer attention for the award, Vogts praised her fellow honorees as well as the many other volunteers with the non-profits she serves who deserve to be recognized. Both the award and the example of those volunteers is something Vogts said gives her inspiration to continue her work in the community.
"Nothing changes, and yet a lot of things change. It makes me more energized. It makes me more motivated. I feel appreciated for my time and that just inspires me to want to give more of it," Vogts said. "The reason I keep going and what I really enjoy about it is I receive back, personally, as much as I give. I feel like I'm making a positive difference. I feel like other people appreciate anything that I help with and I really just enjoy helping others out and knowing that it's making our town a better place to live."
All three Newton Women of the Year honorees will be recognized at a ceremony at the Meridian Center on April 14.