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Volunteer's gaming interest part of service to Hosparus

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By Robert Villanueva

In a back room at Hos­parus Thrift Shoppe in Elizabethtown, Robert Kiper quietly goes about his business, plugging in a portable stereo system and pressing buttons.

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Except for the cassette tape deck, the system gets a thumbs down. An electronic sewing machine he checks afterward gets a thumbs up.

Checking electric devices and equipment is part of what Kiper does as a volunteer at Hosparus Thrift Shoppe, where the 24-year-old has donated time and effort for six-and-a-half years.

“I just thought it would be nice to do it and to help people,” he said.

Without bluster or fanfare, every Tuesday and Friday, Kiper carpools from Irvington in Breckinridge County to volunteer at the thrift store in Helmwood Plaza. He travels with his aunt, who works as a certified nursing assistant for Hosparus. His grandmother, now retired, also worked as a CNA for the organization.

The two women, he said, inspired him to consider volunteering.

The current location is the store’s third spot in the Helmwood Plaza alone, and Kiper likes it more than the previous location.

“It’s a whole lot nicer,” he said.

Additionally, Kiper pointed out, there’s more room for stock.

“The other place it would pile up real high,” Kiper said.

Each day he volunteers, Kiper works at the store from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. His duties range from moving and pricing merchandise to making donation pickups and helping thrift store employees wherever they need his help, he said.

That’s not to mention checking electronic and gaming equipment, for which he is the store’s “go-to” guy, said Moira Taylor, thrift shop supervisor.

“It’s important to our store that we’re putting out something that works,” Taylor said.

A Hosparus volunteer since September 2007, Kiper logged 843 volunteer hours in 2013, she said.

Annette Jones, volunteer manager, echoed the assertion Kiper is helpful with electronic equipment or “anything with a motor.”

“His special skills are a great help as sometimes donated items may only have a small problem,” Jones said. “Robert makes them sellable and thus contributes to our ability to help our patients and families.”

Because Kiper is a video gamer, he is familiar with gaming systems that come in. Among his own possessions are an Xbox, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3.

But the aspect of his volunteer work that involves testing gaming equipment is not the main reason Kiper volunteers.

Helping people, he said, is what motivates him because he finds it rewarding. He finds volunteering to be important because it affords the opportunity to help those in need.

Many customers, Kiper said, are used to seeing him at the store, and some have become friends.

“They recognize me,” he said.

It’s not just the customers who appreciate Kiper.

“Everything Robert does is with an even-tempered cheerfulness,” Jone said.

Thrift store employee and family friend Julie Rambo credited Kiper’s quiet and unassuming personality traits as being positive attributes.

“Robert is just so easy-going and easy to work with,” Rambo said.

Similarly, she said, Kiper is very good with customers.

“He’s a really good fella,” Rambo said.

The feeling seems to be mutual.

Kiper said he enjoys seeing his co-workers each time he works and likes being at the thrift store.

“It’s a good atmosphere,” Kiper said.

Robert Villanueva can be reached at 270-505-1743 or rvillanueva@thenewsenterprise.com.

MORE ABOUT ROBERT KIPER:
Favorite TV shows: “Doctor Who,” “Smallville,” “Supernatural” and “Grimm”
Favorite music: ‘80s
Favorite movies: “Tremors,” “Tremors 2,” “Alien” and its sequels and “A Nightmare on Elm Street”
Favorite gaming system: PlayStation 3
All-time favorite video game: “Uncharted”

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