Get to Know: Paul Fruit, Regional Logistics Specialist

Kayleigh Kaminski and Kaylee Kuhn are seen handing over the greeting cards to Nick Cluppert (left) and Paul Fruit, from the Red Cross

Kayleigh Kaminski and Kaylee Kuhn are seen handing over the greeting cards to Nick Cluppert (left) and Paul Fruit, from the Red Cross

Hello everyone!  My name is Paul Fruit and I’m the Regional Logistics Specialist for the American Red Cross.  I’m excited to be able to share a little bit regarding my continuing career evolution within this remarkable organization and how I ended up in my current position, as it has been one amazing journey.

I grew up in a little town outside of Madison, and graduated from UW-Madison in 2009 with a degree in Economics.  Having absolutely no real idea as to where I wanted to begin my career, and willing to explore a wide range of options, I was particularly intrigued by an AmeriCorps service listing with the Red Cross in Oshkosh to help provide service and support to military members, their families, and the VA facilities that support them.  Knowing very little information about the Red Cross, I dove in headfirst and was quickly exposed to both the wide array of humanitarian services this organization provides, as well as the incredible volunteers that support them.  All I can say is that it was love at first sight!

My experiences as an AmeriCorps member were enough for me to know I wanted to stay with the Red Cross in any capacity I could, and when my two years were up, I accepted a position in Appleton working with a local community program and managing the local office.  I continued in this role for two more years before accepting my current position in disaster services, a position I very much enjoy.  I’m responsible for material resources and volunteers that support 28-counties including vehicles, shelter trailers and warehouses.

Each and every day, I wake up knowing that our organization has the most dedicated, intelligent, and caring volunteers on the planet, and I’m lucky enough to be able to work and engage with them on a daily basis as we continue our mission.  The last 4+ years have been the best years of my life, and I look forward to many more!

Students at Maplewood Middle School particpate in Holiday Mail for Heroes Campaign

The students at Maplewood Middle School, in Menasha, collected and wrote over 369 holiday greeting cards to the men and women serving in the military as part of the Holiday Mail for Heroes Campaign. They worked with the American Red Cross and Pitney Bowes campaign to send holiday greetings to those military members who cannot come home for the holidays. 

Paul Fruit and Nick Cluppert, Red Cross Staff with some of the students who made cards.

Kayleigh Kaminski and Kaylee Kuhn are seen handing over the greeting cards to Nick Cluppert and Paul Fruit, from the Red Cross.

Wisconsin’s East Central Chapter Lends Hand to Veterans Assistance Program

Before

After

The Red Cross was founded on principles of supporting the military and their families, including veterans. Whether it be communications or emergency services, the military has found it can count on the Red Cross.There are many times when the Red Cross can say it has assisted the military or service men and women but rarely do we get to see the before and after of the efforts so clearly as we do with this latest effort to help veterans as with these pictures. When we here at the Lakeland Chapter saw what Wisconsin’s East Central Chapter had done for the Veteran’s Assistance Program in King, WI, we had to stop and say nicely done.

The room pictured is at the Veteran’s Assistance Center located at the Wisconsin Veteran’s Home in King, WI. Because of the good relationship the Red Cross Waupaca office has with the facility, they were able to brainstorm with the facility’s staff to find a meaningful way to help. They took the dire room you see in the first picture and made it the comfortable, hopeful place you see in the second. It all started with an application for a grant and collaboration with the staff at the facility to see what the needs were.

The Wisconsin Department of Veteran Affairs in partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs established the Veterans Assistance Program (VAP) in 1994. It helps homeless veterans and those at-risk of becoming homeless receive the job training, education, counseling and rehabilitative services (such as alcohol and drug abuse treatment) they need to obtain steady employment, affordable housing and the skills to sustain a productive lifestyle.

“I was shocked when I went in there the first time,” says Paul Fruit, an Americorps member with the Red Cross . The room and donated furnishings were in a dilapidated state. “And it wasn’t going to change based on the funding they had.”

The average stay for veterans assisted by the program is 2 years so they think of it as their home. “They have given their time of service and they come back to something like that. Its nice to spruce it up a bit,” says Paul.

In October 2009 the local chapter received word from the National Red Cross that they received the grant and then work began.  The pictures say a lot but amazingly don’t tell the full story of transformation. Volunteers removed the old furniture and painted. The room also got new air conditioners and lighting plus a new laptop for the residents to use.  Final touches were made and pictures were hung for the project to be complete in March, 2010.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Veteran’s Affairs website the philosophy of the Veteran’s Assistance program is simple, “vets helping vets; a one-stop shop to access needed services; a structured environment with long days and hard work to rekindle the pride and confidence these men and women once used to defend our nation.”

This room is a more comfortable place to stop after a hard day’s work of rekindling pride and confidence all because of some hardworking people who saw a need and filled it.

Paul says no one who worked on the project saw it as a struggle or chore but as something that should be done. “I don’t think it was going to change and we had the opportunity to change it.”