Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

April 26, 2013

Volunteering a lifestyle for 13-year-old

Ashley Cone calls reaching out to down-and-out a duty.

By Carson Gerber
Tribune staff writer

— [Editor’s note: In honor of National Volunteer Week, the Kokomo Tribune is recognizing volunteers who make a difference in their community.]

Ashley Cone was just 5 years old when she first started volunteering at her church drying dishes after church-sponsored fish fries.

And the 13-year-old Maple Crest Middle School student hasn’t stopped volunteering since.

In the past year, Cone has participated in more than 11 service projects at places like the Kokomo Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, BonaVista and 4-H.

She’s helped a 99-year-old woman clean up her yard, collected nickels for the Coordinated Assistance Ministries, wrapped Christmas presents for the Rescue Mission and taught Sunday school at Russiaville United Methodist Church.

And those are just a fraction of the outreaches she’s participated in.

Cone also serves on the Maple Crest Student Council. That’s where Vicki Boles, an advisor at the school who oversees the council, first got to know her. And once she got to know her, she said she knew Cone was a special kid.

“Ashley is an amazing young lady who comes into an advisor’s life who just gets it,” Boles said. “There’s always one or two students who go over and above the call of duty on student council, and she rose to the top immediately. She just exemplifies leadership, service, citizenship, character and scholarship.”

But for Cone, volunteering isn’t about overachieving. She said for her, it’s a duty.

“I grew up in a Christian home, and I was raised to do good things,” she said. “God has called me to do what I can to help others.”

Cone said it’s not all about duty, though.

“I think it’s fun, too, and I like helping people who are less fortunate than me,” she said.

That’s something Boles said she noticed right away about Cone. Each year, Boles said she suggests different service project for council members to participate in, and every suggestion she made, Cone was quick to jump on board.

“Everything makes a difference to her,” Boles said. “She cares about everything. She has a complete willingness to participate and volunteer in everything.”

Although Cone said she likes helping anybody in need, the project she most enjoyed was putting together “blessing bags” for men at the Kokomo Rescue Mission. Cone approached neighbors, students and members at her church about donating items like deodorant, socks and toothpaste. On a Saturday, she put the bags together with some of her classmates who she recruited to help.

On Christmas morning, 50 men woke up with the gift bags next to their beds.

“That kind of compassion blesses and encourages me,” Boles said. “Anytime a student goes out and cares, it fires me up. And it makes an impression on other students too. Pretty soon they’re saying, ‘Can I help? Can I help?’”

And that’s a question Cone said she encourages her peers and everyone else in the community to start asking.

“Everybody should try volunteering,” she said. “It’s fun. If you’re not involved with anything right now, look around. You’ll find something you enjoy doing.”

Carson Gerber is a Kokomo Tribune reporter. He can be reached at 765-854-6739, or by email at carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com.

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Kokomo Tribune eEdition, or our print edition