Kathleen McNamara, Wilder volunteer and Cummins employee

Wilder Volunteer Makes Child Development Center Family Events ‘Bigger And Better Than You Could Have Ever Dreamed’


Kathleen McNamara helps make the Wilder Child Development Center feel like a community. The Center, which serves about 70 toddlers and preschoolers in the Frogtown neighborhood of Saint Paul, hosts events to help families get to know one another and foster a sense of community. Kathleen, a military program specialist at Cummins, is instrumental in making many of these events come to life.

Kathleen began volunteering seven years ago through a program offered by Cummins. She already had strong connections to Wilder. Her mother worked at a nursing home once operated by Wilder, and her grandmother lived there. Kathleen's father drove a local judge to volunteer at a Dale Street youth center once operated by Wilder, and she was friends with a nun whose order was known for working with children in Frogtown. Child Development Director Judy Ohm even knew both the judge and the nun. 

“After being introduced to the (Child Development Center) staff, looking at the program and meeting the students, I felt this was where I could do the most work and add my own ideas and pizzazz,” she says.

Volunteers like Kathleen Add Enthusiasm and Excitement to the Child Development Center

Kathleen helps plan almost every Family Fun Night and other events and festivals at the center, including a popular winter holiday celebration and Harvest Fest, another favorite event of families held at the center the day before Thanksgiving. Naoko Sands, assistant director at the Child Development Center, says that Kathleen asked the fire department to come to the summer block party and organized and purchased supplies and prizes for all the games. She once hired a personal trainer to do exercise with the kids at an event the center was hosting.

“You can give Kathleen an idea and she just runs with it and makes it 10 times bigger and better than you could have ever dreamed,” Naoko says. “Whenever Kathleen comes into the Center you can feel her positivity and excitement instantly. Her enthusiasm for whatever event is taking place is just contagious and in turn, it increases both the excitement of staff and of our families.”

By Recruiting Other Volunteers, Kathleen Amplifies Her Impact and Shares Her Joy

Kathleen brings that same spirit when recruits other volunteers from Cummins to join her work at the Child Development Center. She invites volunteers both to bring in more help to the center and to let her coworkers share her experience there.

“I warn my new volunteers, ‘You will get attached to these kids and want to do more.’ And they do. Volunteers always come back,” Kathleen says. “In fact, I have some people who sign up for the same events each year, reserving their spot a year in advance.”

Kathleen continues to add new opportunities for herself and her colleagues at Cummins. As part of her volunteer work with the annual Cultural Festival at the Child Development Center, Kathleen asked her coworkers to attend and show objects, dance, and costumes from their own cultures. 

In addition to helping plan events, Kathleen collections donations from Cummins employees for families at the Child Development Center. She and other Cummins employees also host a holiday workshop to provide gifts for families. “Kathleen fosters hope,” Naoko says. “She contributes so much to helping the Child Development Center feel like a community where kids can grow and learn.”



I warn my new volunteers, ‘You will get attached to these kids and want to do more.’ And they do. Volunteers always come back.

Kathleen McNamara, Cummins Employee and Volunteer at Wilder Child Development Center

Interested in Volunteering at the Wilder Child Development Center?

Visit Wilder Volunteers or email for more information.