My Experience with Youth Volunteering

By: PaKou Lee, Red Cross PR/Social Media Volunteer

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

Youth volunteering reinforces a feeling of involvement, belonging and acceptance in their community. Youth volunteers also have a tendency to do better in school and have a lesser chance by 50% of engaging in risky and unhealthy behaviors  by volunteering once a week. They gain new life skills, important work ethics, and meet different types of people.

Volunteering is important for me because I enjoy the feeling of giving back to the community. I get to meet great people with amazing backgrounds and learn so much from them. I also come from a huge Hmong family and as an aunt to more than 28 nieces and nephews I do my best to be a great role model for them. I have accomplished the typical expectations: go to school, get good grades, graduate college, and not be married by the age of 18. Although I don’t get to see many of my nieces and nephews, I still want to show them that there are better things in life than just video games and having good grades.

So when the Packer 5K was coming up on July 27th, I knew it’d be the perfect opportunity to bring two of my nieces, Nevaeh, 10 and Cienna, 6 along. The night before the race I explained to them that we were going to pass out water and Gatorade to the runners. The next morning, Cienna was ready by 9a.m. and eager to leave.  I was impressed with her enthusiasm but we didn’t have to leave the house until 5p.m.

When we were setting up the Gatorade station with other Red Cross volunteers, Cienna asked me, “Auntie PaKou, what does volunteer mean?” I was surprised by her question because I thought I had explained to her what we were doing. Then I realized I only told her what we were doing, not the meaning of the word and why we were doing it. I answered her, “Volunteering is about helping people for free and not asking for something back like what we are doing right now. We are going to pass out the Gatorade to the runners.” It was great to see Nevaeh and Cienna excited for the runners. We worked great as a team.

At the end, Nevaeh and I had a friendly “argument” about who passed out more Gatorade. To this day, she still thinks she passed out more than me. The only things that mattered to me were they both had fun, they gave back to the community, and wanted to come back next year to volunteer again.

American Red Cross has many volunteer opportunities for youth from starting a Red Cross club at school to activity guides to spread the Red Cross mission. Click here for more information.

Thanks to the Red Cross for the opportunity. Cienna (L) and Nevaeh (R) look forward to more volunteering!

Shopko Foundation Receives the Corporate Benefactor Award!

The American Red Cross mission is to lend a helping hand whenever and wherever we are needed. Our network of nearly 600 chapters further our mandate in neighborhoods across the country by helping people prepare for, prevent and respond to emergencies. Chapter workers are on the ground 24/7, right here in Northeast Wisconsin, thanks to the generosity of corporate partners.

Corporate partnerships ensure a local Red Cross presence ready to offer a wide range of disaster services including response to house fires and other local emergencies, providing food, shelter and comfort to those in need.

In Northeast Wisconsin, our dedicated disaster volunteers respond to nearly 200 disasters annually. And nationally, we respond to nearly 70,000 disasters annually, including home fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, and ice storms. In the past eight months alone, over 50 Northeast WI workers were deployed to support large scale operations including Superstorm Sandy and the recent Oklahoma tornadoes. In an average year, the American Red Cross will spend approximately $400 million in disaster relief across the country.

As you can imagine, major financial resources are needed to address these needs. That’s why we are so grateful for the help of loyal friends like the Shopko Foundation. In the past 13 years, the foundation has provided over $180,000 to disaster relief bringing comfort and relief to thousands, during what is in many cases a family’s most challenging time.

In a recent statement, Shopko Interim CEO, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer stated,

“Shopko views each community where we serve our customers as our ‘hometown’. We appreciate the opportunity to serve these communities and strive to strengthen them through the Shopko Foundation’s support of charitable groups and activities that are important to the people who live and work there.  We are committed to promoting healthy lifestyles and educational opportunities for our neighbors in all the communities where we serve and strive to make an impact through the Shopko Foundation.”

Shopko

Program Manager, MIchelle Hansen & Public Relations Tara Zeller from Shopko Foundation with the Corporate Benefactor Award!

We would like to congratulate this year’s Corporate Benefactor Award to the Shopko Foundation.

Leon Wollersheim is Honored with the Behind-the-Scenes Award!

Leon Wollersheim

Sherry Rezba and Leon Wollersheim

Leon Wollersheim has been a volunteer with the Red Cross for eight years. He is one of those people you can always depend on. For several years he regularly came in once a week to help with data entry. Having him help in the office was such a pleasure because we could always count on hearing a funny joke when he arrived.  He came in with a smile on his face and a positive “sure, I can do that for you” attitude. In addition to helping in the office he has continuously been a disaster action team member taking 24/7 calls throughout the years, responding to calls in Calumet and neighboring counties when called upon. He recently joined the Calumet/Manitowoc/Sheboygan Community Council becoming even more involved in the mission of the Red Cross. As a council member, he supports the Red Cross’s community outreach through various local and regional events and projects. He is a dedicated volunteer with a great sense of humor, a kind personality and he is a pleasure to be around.

Congratulations, Leon Wollersheim on your Behind-the-Scenes Award!

Nancy Stolz Mirhashemi is Honored with the 2013 Volunteer of the Year Award!

The Volunteer of the Year Award is awarded to Nancy Stolz Mirhashemi who has demonstrated long-term commitment to the American Red Cross. She gives time, talent and knowledge in ways that improve the quality of the programs and services of the organization.

She has been an active volunteer since September 2005. Since then she has donated hundreds of hours working with people affected by fires, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. When she is not out on a fire call she is attending planning meetings.

She wears many hats and when asked to change jobs it is always done with great poise. “Red Cross work is all about being flexible” is one of her favorite sayings. She is trained and has experience in being an Operational Manager, a Supervisor in Damage Assessment, Mass Care, Client Casework and Shelter Management and is an instructor of basic Disaster Courses. She also is certified as an ERV –Emergency Response Vehicle Driver and is Captain of one of the Disaster Response Teams. However, we think her favorite title is Queen of the store room.

Nancy is an important part of the Disaster Response Leadership team. She provides a calm ship in the middle of serious situations. If something isn’t flowing right she has no problem in relooking at the problem and setting a new path. Nancy is well respected by all who work along with her. Fire Chiefs have called after a fire to say how great it was working with her—her professionalism, knowledge of procedure and caring of the disaster victims.

Nancy has managed to get most of her family into the Red Cross fold. Her daughter Katherine has been a youth volunteer for the past 6 years—kind of growing up in Red Cross. Her husband Hossein is called upon to help all the time—we need help taking down a shelter, or we need a fridge for the stock room, trucks to go pick up donations etc. Her parents are great financial supporters and now that her son Alex is back living in Green Bay we hope to see him in the stockroom helping.

Her commitment to the Red Cross role in our community is unswerving. Thank you for choosing Red Cross Disaster Services to share your time and talents with.

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(L-R: Husband Hossein Mirhashemi, Nancy Stolz Mirhashemi, and daughter Katherine Mirhashemi)

Congratulations, Nancy Stolz Mirhashemi on the 2013 Volunteer of the Year.

Dancing Star & Board Member, Todd Bierowski honored with the Mrs. Crane (Mary) Murphy Award!

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(L-R: Todd’s wife, Blake Bierowski, Todd Bierowski, and his mother Sharon Bierowski)

Todd Bierowski, honored with the Mrs. Crane (Mary) Murphy Award, is about to complete his first year as a member of our Northeast Wisconsin Chapter Board. During that time, he’s been a very active participant and contributor by serving on several board and special event planning committees including the Golf and Dancing with Our Stars events. He’s always working his large network of personal and professional connections to secure sponsorships and donors, which makes him an outstanding board member and ambassador for the American Red Cross.

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Blake & Todd Bierowski with his Mrs. Crane (Mary) Murphy Award.

His ability to raise funds was showcased during the most recent Dancing with Our Stars campaign as he brought in more than $41,000 through a variety of creative fundraising events, including a “Ransom Rally”, in which friends and family donated nearly $10,000 so he could dance come February 23rd. And when it came time to show off those ballroom dance moves, the former division three-college athlete did not disappoint. In fact, he performed despite suffering from two tears in his medial meniscus! We’re happy to report he is now recovered from that injury, and ready to lend a helping hand to the next group of star dancers as they begin the journey he once embarked on.

Congratulations, Todd!

Volunteer Driver, Paul Strom Honored with the 2013 Andrew Janssen Transportation Award!

Congratulations, Paul Strom.

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. These attributes are exactly why we chose Paul Strom for this year’s award. He became a volunteer driver in August 2009 after retiring from Schneider National. When asked what he was looking at doing, he stated he would like something that would allow him to be more active, and without a doubt he had come to the right place. Since starting he has volunteered 2-3 days per week, provided 5,184 rides and logged 2,592 volunteer hours. When he is not here helping those in need, he enjoys reading and spending time with his family at their cottage. Thank you for your dedication & time. Congrats, Paul Strom on your 2013 Andrew Janssen Transportation Award.

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(L-R: Jody Weyers, Paul Strom, Cathy Strom, and Tina DeGrave Whetung.)

Get a Behind-the-Scenes Read about Deb Harrington!

In the world of Disaster Response and planning things happen very quickly and our Disaster Response Volunteers need to be prepared to report to the scene and offer assistance. They need to have the correct paperwork in their bags and supplies—comfort kits, sweat suits, quilts in their vehicles.

We have a solid core of 50 Emergency Responders that cover the 10 Counties that make up the BIG 10 Area. Deb Harrington has developed processes and methods to keep all of us straight. She maintains casework files locally so help can continue being provided and makes sure that copies of financial records are sent to the Milwaukee office for payments. She has reorganized the files in the Disaster Office so the Team Captains can come in and restock with no problem. She accepted the position of co-lead of Mass Care and is Captain of a response team that is on call every 6 weeks from 6pm to 6am.

Deb has been very patient and kind no matter what is asked of her. She is a talented smart business woman who has put her skills to good use working behind the scenes. The whole team knows to go to Deb to find anything that is needed. This is such a vital role because once a call comes in everyone and everything is moving quickly and more times than not something changes. Deb is always there to support her fellow volunteers.

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Deb Harrington, third from right, with her Behind-the-Scenes Award. Also in the picture: Scott Vanidestine, Judy Irwin Gregory & Nancy Stolz Mirhashemi.

Congratulations Deb Harrington in being honored with the 2013
Behind-the-Scenes Volunteer Award.