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Always on the go

Karen Hunter puts out fires in the office and out on the prairie


Karen HunterOnce, when Karen Hunter was still in high school and working on the family farm near Smith Center, she cut off the tip of her finger. Doctors told her to stay idle and keep the finger elevated for a few days. She managed most of a day.

"I couldn't take it anymore, so I held my finger up and went back to work," Hunter said. "I just always like to be busy."

Little has changed. Most people at K-State know Hunter as a customer services specialist with K-State printing services.

But in addition to graphic design work and helping customers, Hunter also works as a server and bartender at Whiskey Creek, as a salesperson for K.O. Beef & Quality Foods with Country Stampede, and somehow finds time to volunteer with the Riley County Police Department and the Riley County Fire Department.

In her "free" time she likes to cook, crochet, sew, hunt and put her mechanical skills to use.

In early spring, Hunter took a day off to catch up around the house. During that time, she replaced the engine on a wood splitter to ensure that she and her husband would be able to continue cutting wood to heat their home near Keats.

"It needed to be done," Hunter said with a shrug.

When she's not building fires to warm her home, Hunter and her husband, Chris, fight fires as part of a volunteer program in her area.

"We're trained to fight grass, house and car fires," Hunter said. "All of the volunteers have areas throughout the county that they can get called out to help with."

Fires on the Konza Prairie are the worst, she said.

"It can make for a really long fire-fight and nights out there are always tough," she said. "It's pitch black out on the prairie and we've had people get lost."

Some of the volunteer work Hunter does is dangerous, but there are advantages.

As an auxiliary officer with the Riley County Police Department, Hunter helps with DUI checkpoints, prisoner transports and traffic control at Bramlage Coliseum and Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

While working traffic control at Bramlage can mean a long day during K-State's graduation, there are perks to working football game days.

"We're able to watch most of the game, but by the fourth quarter we have to be back at our positions," Hunter said.

Through her work with the RCPD, Hunter has received opportunities for supervisor positions at the annual Country Stampede held at Tuttle Creek State Park.

Hunter works at the campground area of Country Stampede and is able to catch a few shows in her off time.

Perks are nice, but most rewarding for Hunter are the faces of those she helps.

"There was a wreck I worked on Highway 24 and it was bad," she said of one of her experiences volunteering with the fire department. "It was a van full of kids and we had to use the ‘jaws of life' to get some people out.

"But working to keep the kids calm and get them to safety was really rewarding. It just makes me feel really good to see how people react when you've helped them."