Why I Help: John Meinke, Madison, Wisconsin

By Andrea Coan, Red Cross Volunteer Journalist

1418832675579 John M - MadisonA talented new addition to our American Red Cross volunteer corps, John Meinke works on media and communications efforts with the Red Cross of Badger Chapter, as well as the South Central Wisconsin Region. Here, he makes his own unique contribution to the organization.

Meinke photographs volunteers and employees at blood drives, programs supporting the Armed Forces, disaster training events, and so much more. Awed by each person who gives back, Meinke feels lucky to have an opportunity to capture the strong individuals who work for the Red Cross.

“When I see Red Cross teams in action, I feel proud to be a part of something much larger than any individual involved,” said Meinke. “I know that my assignments, which are very important to me, are just a small part of what happens every day in the Red Cross.”

After retiring from a career in visual arts education, which included darkroom and digital photography, Meinke made the choice to join the Red Cross in 2013. He was determined to stay active and engaged in meaningful endeavors during his retirement, and felt volunteerism would be the ideal way to achieve this personal goal.

When he isn’t behind the camera, Meinke works on the Red Cross photo archive where he preserves the value and quality of photos representing the history of the organization. He works closely with Katie Gaynor, external communications manager of Red Cross Blood Services.

Meinke will never forget an encounter with a family at a blood drive in Portage, Wisconsin where he met two parents who took turns donating blood, while holding their newborn son. They wanted their young son to experience the “giving spirit” as soon as possible. Meinke felt a deep respect for this family, which put the value of giving at the center of their lives.

In his short time with the Red Cross, Meinke has already photographed some powerful images.

“In my work, I help others become aware of and understand the services provided by the Red Cross, but those who build and share shelter, nourishment, comfort or life-saving blood are true heroes,” said Meinke.

American Red Cross Celebration of Support Honors Announced

The local American Red Cross honored volunteers and community partners at the Celebration of Support event Thursday, November 6, 2014. Around 100 Red Cross volunteers and community supporters attended the event hosted by The Waters and sponsored by Festival Foods.

Joining Steve Hansen, Chapter Executive was community members from several cities. The Northeast Wisconsin Chapter covers 20 counties and the diversity of skills; experience and proximity are recognized in the awards below.

(l-r) NIck Cluppert, Disaster Program Manager, Tom Powell, Mental Health Disaster Volunteer, Steve Hansen, Chapter Executive.

(l-r) Nick Cluppert, Disaster Program Manager, Tom Powell, Mental Health Disaster Volunteer, Steve Hansen, Chapter Executive.

Thomas Powell, of Ripon, Victor Fousek Emergency Services Award for outstanding commitment assisting local and national communities impacted by disasters.

Norman “Gene” Wallis, of Appleton, Outreach Award presented to a volunteer for exceptional support in Health and Safety, Services to Armed Forces, or other areas that involve education and outreach promoting Red Cross services.

Nancy Hammock, of Fond du Lac, Blood Services Volunteer Award for exceptional reliability and dedication to the blood services program.

Janet Meyer, of Hortonville, Behind-the-Scenes Award presented to a volunteer who assists with essential office work at our (Appleton) office locations in development, facilities, reception and other behind-the-scenes jobs.

Angie Dusenberry, of Oshkosh, Rookie of the Year, presented to a volunteer for exceptional level of service who has started within the past year.

Traded Treasures, in Ripon, and ADOVCAP, in Oshkosh, Corporate Benefactor Award, for a business with outstanding commitment to their communities and collaboration with the American Red Cross.

(L-R) Pat Exarhos, Board Member and Steve Hansen, Chapter Executive.

(L-R) Pat Exarhos, Board Member and Steve Hansen, Chapter Executive.

Pat Exarhos, of Appleton, Leadership Award, presented to a member of the volunteer board of directors, committee or program for exceptional leadership, contribution and support for the advancement of the American Red Cross.

Charles Patzer, of Wild Rose, Volunteer of the Year Award, presented to the individual who has demonstrated excellence and long-term commitment to the American Red Cross. This individual gives time, talent and knowledge in ways that improve the quality of the programs and services of the organization.

Howard Porter, of Appleton, Clara Barton Award, presented to an individual who exemplifies the qualities of American Red Cross pioneer Clara Barton.

(l-r) NIck Cluppert, Disaster Program Manager, Charles Patzer, Disaster & Services to Armed Forces Volunteer, Steve Hansen, Chapter Executive.

(l-r) NIck Cluppert, Disaster Program Manager, Charles Patzer, Disaster & Services to Armed Forces Volunteer, Steve Hansen, Chapter Executive.

All award recipient photos are posted on our local Facebook page and Flickr site.

Harvey Lorenz – Dedicated and Engaged Legacy Society Member

m16140841_legacy-society_137x135We are very proud of Harvey Lorenz and the incredible work he does in the field and his long term planning to ensure the future of the American Red Cross critical services and programs.  Harvey and his wife Margaret, were featured in the Summer 2014 Legacy newsetter published by the American Red Cross.

You can read his entire story here.  

 

By Harvey Lorenz, American Red Cross Volunteer 

Soon after I retired in 1995, a church friend who served on the board of the local Red Cross chapter recruited me to join the board as its treasurer. After two terms as treasurer, I served as chair of the nominating committee and then served three terms as local chapter chair. During this time, I became active in the local disaster response team, mainly by being called out as a “caseworker” in the middle of the night to assist various families experiencing home fires.

Typically, I’d receive several of these calls every month, and my wife Margaret became known as the most awake and cheerful person to answer the phone in the middle of the night.

harvey LorenzIn 2005, my heart went out to the many victims of Katrina and I quickly volunteered to go south. I was sent to Mississippi where I was an intake interviewing caseworker helping to determine what kind of aid displaced families and individuals could receive and counseling them on how to receive additional assistance from other community resources or their own insurance companies. So often these people had left their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs, they had no rapid access to any savings because their banks were flooded and not operating, and/or they didn’t remember the names of their insurance agents (or those agents had been displaced as well). I talked to one woman who had given birth the day after fleeing her home, had named her baby Katrina, and was staying in the mass shelter with her week-old infant. Another put her two-year old in a laundry basket “boat” and swam to safety, pulling him behind her. Her friend who left their flooded house with her never made it to dry ground. Several people had been pulled off their roofs by helicopter crews, and others had lost touch with family members or were grieving relatives who had died.

These interviews were hard on me personally. There were times when I had to put a “closed” sign on my table in the shelter hallway for a few minutes while I went outside to clear my head.

When I came home after three weeks in Mississippi, I knew I wanted to keep helping on the national level, but I also knew I wasn’t good at being a caseworker in such extreme situations. I immediately signed up for classes in disaster assessment and financial/statistical information gathering and reporting.

Right away, over Thanksgiving in 2005, I was able to use some of the assessment skills in Florida after Wilma, and most of my responses since then (14 more national disasters in all, generally two to three weeks each) have been related to the financial/statistical responsibilities, often as a supervisor and even as “state manager” in New Hampshire after Ike-related flooding. Some of the other national calls have involved Kansas ice storms, flooding in southern Wisconsin, and multiple tornados in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. I responded after Superstorm Sandy twice actually, once initially (over Thanksgiving again) and then about three months later when the Red Cross was making a big push to permanently relocate everyone who’d been in temporary housing since the storm. I’ve stayed in gymnasiums, church shelters, converted warehouse shelters, a Boy Scout camp, motels with barely dry rooms and no other services, and low-end walk-up big-city hotels.

On the local level, disaster services has been reorganized so that now I am captain of a team that’s on-call about one week out of six, and that has meant fewer late-night phone calls. Additionally, I’ve responded as shelter worker for a couple of regional flooding situations, doing disaster assessment after a tornado in our own city, and—last year two weeks after my total knee replacement, when I couldn’t walk anywhere on rough terrain–I served as the phone liaison between the Red Cross and County Emergency Services. I have been active on fundraising committees and also serve as a kind of a 24/7 back-up to the local staff disaster manager during those times when he might be out of town or on vacation.

Although Margaret has never accompanied me on any of my responses, she says she feels that she is contributing a bit too, as she never complains about my being gone over holidays and family events, and she takes over my at-home responsibilities with our own two dogs and our volunteer fostering of rescue dogs. We can’t really identify when, how, or why, we changed from sending Red Cross minimal yearly contributions and became larger donors. That and designating the American Red Cross in my will just seemed the right things to do in order to continue to respond to local and national disasters. I’ve seen the good we can do.

If you would like information about how you can support our mission and help those in need by creating your own legacy like Harvey and Margaret Lorenz have done, please contact our Gift Planning Office at 1-800-797-8022 ext 5,  giftplanning@redcross.org or log on to http://www.redcrosslegacy.org 

Welcome Americorps Member: Caitlin Schenck

By Caitlin Schenck, Americorps Member 

My name is Caitlin Schenck Caitlin Schenckand I am a recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay where I completed two bachelor’s degrees in three years’ time.  I received a B.S. in Environmental Policy and Planning, a B.A. in Political Science and my minor was Public Administration.  As the mother of a toddler, I was unable to become as involved as I would have liked to be during years at UWGB, I was able to gain some amazing work and volunteer experiences when my schedule allowed me to do so.  The last nine months of my college career I interned with the blood services department of the American Red Cross.  When the opportunity presented itself to me, I was really excited because the Red Cross is an organization I have held near and dear to my heart for years.

Originally, I come from a small town near Wisconsin Dells, Reedsburg.  I graduated high school in 2006 and moved to Madison almost immediately after.  In 2008, what has been referred to as the 2008 Midwest Flood happened where several states including my hometown had a flood that almost bankrupted the town’s economy.  Many of my close friends lost their homes and were forced to rebuild.  The Red Cross was the first organization in town after the first responders.  All of the roads were closed for a few weeks and so much traffic was rerouted I couldn’t make it back right away to help, and to this day, I am so thankful those volunteers in the community were there to help all of my loved ones when I couldn’t.  So when I was given the opportunity to become a part of the Red Cross team here in Green Bay, and given opportunities to volunteer as well, I jumped on board and I can happily say they’ve gained a lifer out of me.

In my time as an intern, I enjoyed the work I was doing, helping out at blood drives, but the chapter end of the Red Cross and disaster services was something I was much more interested in.  Then, I got a tip from a friend that there was a part time AmeriCorps position open in Green Bay working in Disaster Preparedness.  I applied, interviewed, and have become a member with AmeriCorps.  Once again, I have the opportunity to work with the Red Cross in Disaster Preparedness and I could not be more excited for this amazing experience!  Now, I will be reaching out to community members and performing preparedness presentations, recruiting new volunteers, and assisting in the Red Cross’ Pillowcase Project which is geared toward 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.  I just cannot express how excited I am to watch this next year unfold and to be able to be a part of the Red Cross family once again, gain new experiences, spread the word of the importance of preparedness and hopefully make an impact in the process.

Sharon Davister & Bonnie Rozmarynowski Honored with the Behind-the-Scenes Volunteer Award

June 24, 2014 the American Red Cross of Northeast Wisconsin hosted our spring Celebration of Support event.  We had 260 staff, volunteers, blood donors and community members attend this annual event. Every year we honor a few volunteers who have gone above and behind. Here are their stories.  

(l-r) Jody Weyers, Volunteer and Communications Director, Sharon Davister, Behind-the-Scenes Award Winner and Sue Reineck, Office Manager.

(l-r) Jody Weyers, Volunteer and Communications Director, Sharon Davister, Behind-the-Scenes Award Winner and Sue Reineck, Office Manager.

We all know someone who is always there…not in the spotlight, many people might not even know their name, but to the person or area they support they are invaluable.  This year we honored two ladies who started their career with the Red Cross in the same way.  Sharon Davister and Bonnie Rozmarynowski both started at the Red Cross through the N.E.W.Curative Senior Aid program. This program places older adults within an agency to gain job skills for 1-2 years before they are transitioned to a new assignment or gain employment.

After their first term was up both ladies stayed on to help in a second term and then continued on as a loyal volunteer.  

Sharon Davister worked in our Health and Safety department where much transition was happening and the Red Cross was making some hard decisions and changes within the department she served taking the workforce from 5 down to 2. While she served day after day through this growth period there was always a smile on her face and a spring in her step. She made every effort to put smiles and hope in others around her.  She was and is to this day a rock of positive thinking and hope. She strives to focus on the good in people and the positives happening around her. She currently works every Tuesday and will help with whatever projects are needed to be done.  Assisting with data entry projects, mail processing and finances, sewing patches on vests, to other admin support projects. Anything she is asked to do, she does it with a smile on her face. 

Sue Reineck, Office Manager, say “Sharon’s made a great impact in my life and I truly count on her to be “my right hand” in my day-to-day role.

Bonnie Rozmarynowski has a similar story. She worked as a Senior Aide and then after her term was up, continued on as a loyal volunteer. She is a key player in our fundraising department. Who likes to make call after call to ask people for prizes?  She does this task for most of our special events and has much success. She helps call businesses to gather prizes for our golf outing, Soup’s on Fundraiser and the Heroes Musicales event.

She will continue to call a business until she gets a yes or a no, and more times than not with her dedicated follow up and notes, that business does donate to our events. She will also assist when called upon to answer phones at our front desk in the Green Bay office.

Both these ladies and truly behind-the-scenes, but their impact is felt by many within the Red Cross,  it was our honor to present the Behind-the-Scenes Award to Sharon Davister and Bonnie Rozmarynowski

John Mueller Honored with the Andrew Janssen Transportation Award

June 24, 2014 the American Red Cross of Northeast Wisconsin hosted our spring Celebration of Support event.  We had 260 staff, volunteers, blood donors and community members attend this annual event. Every year we honor a few volunteers who have gone above and behind. Here are their stories.  

(l-r) Carol and John Mueller and Tina Whetung, Transportation Manager.

(l-r) Carol and John Mueller and Tina Whetung, Transportation Manager.

This award is in remembrance of a man who truly enjoyed volunteering for the American Red Cross.  He was a very caring, compassionate individual who went above and beyond each and every time he got behind the wheel of a Red Cross vehicle.

John Mueller has been a dedicated volunteer for Transportation Services for more than 17 years.  Since starting he has seen a lot of changes within the program, including making the move from the basement office on Deckner Ave into the Service Delivery facility, across the street, where we are currently located.  He has also experienced the growing pains of adjusting to new scheduling software and was present for many staff comings and goings.

John is a routine volunteer driver, meaning he commits to driving each Tuesday and Thursday morning, providing rides to the elderly and/or disabled in our community.  The impact this volunteer has made since starting is:  He has volunteered 1,768 times donating 7,956 hours of his time and provided approximately 14,144 rides.  When he is not helping out at the American Red Cross he can be found volunteering either at his church or doing work for the Knights of Columbus.

Congratulations John Mueller, this year’s Andrew Janssen Transportation Award recipient!

Pakou Lee Honored with Rookie of the Year Award

June 24, 2014 the American Red Cross of Northeast Wisconsin hosted our spring Celebration of Support event.  We had 260 staff, volunteers, blood donors and community members attend this annual event. Every year we honor a few volunteers who have gone above and behind. Here are their stories.  

(l) Pakou Lee, Rookie of the Year with Jody Weyers, Volunteer & Communications Director.

(l) Pakou Lee, Rookie of the Year with Jody Weyers, Volunteer & Communications Director.

The American Red Cross has so many stories to share of the amazing generosity of our volunteers, donors and the great work we do in the community.  It is a gift when you come across a volunteer who has the talent and skills to capture these stories to share with the public.

Pakou Lee is vital to the public affairs team. She is involved with writing stories about our services and her experiences and then sharing those on our blog and other social sites. She updates our Northeast Wisconsin Facebook page and Twitter account daily promoting local blood drives and campaigns.

She volunteers at many of our special events assisting with promoting that event through social media or helping where needed. For the past two years she has assisted at the Packers 5k, along with bringing her nieces to help, our Dancing with Our Stars kick off and many fundraising events for our Star Dancers.  

Pakou has taken training classes in public affairs to gain additional knowledge and did her first live television interview as a Red Cross spokesperson this year.  Through her volunteer experience, she received a promotion with her employer working on their social media team.

She has a wonderful talent of being able to draw people in with her words.  It is for her dedication and commitment to sharing the Red Cross story that honored Pakou Lee with the Rookie of the Year Award.

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