It's 7:30 a.m. on a Thursday and Basehor resident and town patriarch Chuck Wilderson is dodging a simple question.
"Why do you volunteer?"
Wilderson pauses a moment and shifts uncomfortably in his chair. He grabs a sheet of paper from a mountain of debris atop his basement desk and hands it over to the inquisitor.
"I guess I'd feel more comfortable talking about the volunteer efforts of the whole community," Wilderson said.
The one-page paper is a poem titled "Why Volunteer?". A quick perusal of the composition produces a two-paragraph answer to the elusive question.
Do something for those who have a need of man's help -- something for which you get no pay, but the privilege of doing it.
For remember, you don't live in a world of your own -- your brothers are here too.
Wilderson, owner of the Wilderson Tree Farm, a Basehor resident for the last 28 years, has a laundry-list resume of involvement in public service. His work began in 1982 and has endured to this day, 22 years later.
There was his tenure as president of the Basehor-Linwood High School Booster Club in the early 80s and stints as president of the Basehor Chamber of Commerce in 1994 and 2000.
He helped revitalize the Basehor PRIDE organization in the mid-1990s and maintains service in the group to this day. He also dedicates time as a board member for the Southern Leavenworth County Leadership Class.
There are other activities as well, too many to list here.
He maintains these duties, ones for which he receives no pay, while running his tree farm, which has provided dozens of Basehor teens with their first job, and while balancing the responsibilities of a husband, father and grandfather.
Yet, he's leery of talking about himself. Community service is just what it sounds like, just like a line in the poem reads, its giving "some time to your fellow man, even if it is only a little thing."
Luckily those who know and have worked with Wilderson aren't so reluctant to talk about him. They rave about the man some call "Mr. Basehor."
"He never seems to tire in doing things for the community," said George Smith, president of the Basehor PRIDE civic organization. "He is dedicated to PRIDE and the city itself.
"Chuck is Chuck. He's Mr. Basehor."
Mary Ann Mogle, a Basehor resident and city clerk for the last 20 years, has seen Wilderson come into City Hall for nearly two decades now, inquiring about permits for festivals, banquets, parades or celebrations he was organizing.
"I think the biggest thing about Chuck that impresses me is that he's not a person that wants the limelight," Mogle said. "He does all this work for the community and wants none of the recognition. You never see him asking for a pat on the back."
Wilderson, a Colorado native, traces his dedication to community and work ethic back to a childhood growing up on a farm. It was there, in the fields of Colorado, that Wilderson learned the value of hard work and the importance of family and friends.
After a career as an engineer moved Wilderson and his family across the country, he eventually settled in Basehor. There is no question where he calls home.
"I've lived in Basehor longer than anywhere else in my entire life," he said. "By far this is home. This is where my heritage is, this is where my home is.
"My heart is here."
When the high school wrestling team needed new uniforms in 1982, Wilderson's field of community service first took root. Like his tree farm, his dedication to Basehor has been nurtured, cultivated and prosperous, ever since.
"I don't think we can function without volunteers," he said. "To me, it's a way of life and very necessary in a small town."
The wrestling team got its new uniforms and Wilderson's PRIDE organization, which he helped revitalize, continually dedicates times to Basehor by organizing recycling drives, community assessments and a host of other activities.
Currently, he and other PRIDE members are working on the annual Basehor Fourth of July celebration, which Wilderson asked be mentioned, will take place on July 3 this year.
Although he said he'll be scaling back some of his volunteer efforts to spend more time with family, Wilderson said it's difficult to imagine a time where he isn't involved in the community.
"I'm sure a time will come but I don't know when that will be," he said. "As long as I'm alive, I'm sure I'll be doing something."
Why does Chuck Wilderson volunteer? We're still not quite sure, and maybe he isn't either, but, he said, the answer can be found in that one-page poem.
It is not enough to merely exist. It's not enough to say I'm earning enough to live and support my family.
I do my work well. I'm a good father. I'm a good husband. I'm a good church-goer.
That's all very well, but you must do something more.
Seek always to do some good somewhere.
And that, above all else, speaks volumes about Chuck Wilderson.
More like this story
- Basehor's 10th annual Dairy Days looking for sunny skies
- Basehor, Bonner area students receive collegiate honors
- Kansas City Connection: A celebration of beer
- Kansas City Connection: Tour spotlights how things are growing in urban gardens, farms
- Kansas City Connection: Eating recommendations for moms (and everyone else)