Congratulations, Kansas! Our state has the fourth highest rate of volunteerism in the country. Almost 40 percent of Kansans regularly volunteer their time to help others.

If you are currently in that 40 percent, give yourself a pat on the back. If, on the other hand, you are part of the 60 percent, maybe it's time to make a New Year's resolution to help Kansas climb to the No. 1 spot next year. We are only 10 percentage points away from having the highest levels of volunteerism in the country, and you can help us reach that prestigious title.

The types of volunteer opportunities available are as diverse and varied as the people who offer up their time and the motivations that drive them. From unemployed students waiting for the next semester to begin to busy professionals, volunteers are what make it possible for organizations like Lee Richardson Zoo to provide the level of service and quality experiences of which we are so proud. Whether your interest lies in working behind the scenes to help prepare for major events, improving the everyday lives of our program animals or promoting conservation topics to audiences of all ages, we can provide an experience that you are sure to love.

At 2 p.m. Jan. 4, Lee Richardson Zoo is hosting its annual informational volunteer get-together in the Finnup Center for Conservation Education, 312 E. Finnup Drive, next to the exit gate and duck pond. This event is free for everyone and is a fantastic opportunity to meet some of the zoo's current volunteers, learn more about the many ways you can help the zoo and decide if Lee Richardson Zoo is the place for you in 2014. In addition to the lively company of current volunteers, you can meet a few of our animal ambassadors, investigate some of our incredible biofacts and explore the interactive exhibits throughout the Finnup Center. The zoo accepts volunteers as young as 16 years old, and we need people from all walks of life every interest and talent is valuable.

If you love animals and would like to help the zoo inspire appreciation and stewardship of the natural world, this is your chance. Last year, almost 50 zoo volunteers donated more than 2,300 hours of their time and provided more than 800 educational programs to children and adults of all ages. These numbers are a record high for Lee Richardson Zoo, but we always need more help! In 2013, we added birthday parties and winter Edventures to our list of educational opportunities, the Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo developed new special events including the Global Bazaar and Tails in Tinsel Town, and our school programs continue to expand each year.

Everything we do to promote conservation and environmental education is a lot of work, but it is also a lot of fun. Join us at 2 p.m. Jan. 4 to learn how you can become part of the wildest crew in town!