Alumni celebrate Month of Service

Author: Office of Alumni Engagement

Published Date: 12/4/2020

Categories: Alumni Pioneers Persevere University News


Month of Service graphic
Although 2020 has changed lives and restricted our space and travel, alumni are still on the move, living out the Carroll mission of service through their time, treasure and talent. We received responses from 226 participants during November's Month of Service who reported 2,513 volunteer hours, 211 hours of sharing their talents, and nearly $36,682 in monetary donations to community-based organizations. 

Learn more from some of our alumni about how they give and why as we share details from those who submitted stories to the Office of Alumni Engagement:

Holly (Monahan) Albrecht '79

Major: Elementary Education

I volunteered by packing meals for Panama at River Glen Church.

Communities need the support of all its members. River Glen Christian Church's mission is to serve others. We serve within our walls, in our local community, and in the world. We are called by Christ to use our talents to serve others. Through service I have been able to reach out to those in need around me and support using my God-given gifts.

As a host for our church online campus, I am given opportunities to encourage and pray for others across the world. I can engage them in the worship service. Even though they don’t attend church in person right now, they can still participate in worship and share their needs. I am given opportunities to pray with them and encourage them in their faith journey.

I recently was part of an outreach event at church to pack 100,000 meals for Panama. It felt good to know that I am helping others that are living in need and I met some new people at church. We had fun working as a team and building a new relationship. It feels good to help when I can and where needed. I am growing in my faith and thinking less about me and more about others.

Larisa (Stirrat) Chmielewski '89

Major: Psychology

At this typing, I have made over 975 masks. And, on each mask is a smiley face that I handsew at the bottom right so that maybe it will make an onlooker smile.

I started making masks when a friend from Iowa asked for masks for her home health agency in Sioux City. I hadn’t had my sewing machine out to do anything since the Halloween of 2017. And, I am a novice at the sewing thing. I was just excited to get a zipper to work in my daughter’s  costumes. So, sewing masks, seemed easy enough. And, I have TONS of fabric that Mom had saved.

Being a Preacher’s Kid, I was raised believing in giving back. That no one is an island. We all have to work together to make this world a better place.

I learned how to make several different styles and sizes of masks. After I sent my Iowa friend her masks, word got out that I was making them. I ended up sewing and sending some to a doctor friend in Door County, Wis. a local facility for developmentally disabled children, several assisted living facilities, a large health care system, the local food pantry, Visit Beloit and many family and friends. Then, I asked my sister, Kristi in Scottsdale AZ, if she needed masks for her Physical Therapy clinic and for the public boat that they own, the Desert Belle on Lake Saguaro. Yes, was the answer.

Since then, I have sent her over 300 masks which she is selling for a donation of $5 each which goes to Make a Wish Foundation. So far, she has been able to send them over $725 and hopes to hit the $1000 mark by New Years!

Was I expecting just sewing a few masks for a friend by dusting off my sewing machine would amount to this? Absolutely not.  But, I have enjoyed it. So much so, that I am making them for my kids’ schools students and teachers in Beloit. I’m certainly not providing the types of services that others are in this COVID-19 world, like medical staff, grocers, postal workers and utility workers. But it is nice to know that I am making people safe and helping out some less fortunate kids as well.

Carol (Esser) Eberhardy '76

Major: Accounting, Business Administration

It is important for me to contribute to my community because we all need to think outside of ourselves and help each other.

On the third Wednesday of each month, I run a meal program sponsored by my local church for guests in need of lunch in the Madison community. Five hours per month. As a retired CPA, I am still using my Carroll University accounting degree by counting our church collection money every Monday morning. Two hours per week. I also serve on our parish finance council. Four hours per month.

I recently retired and am having time to finally go through my "treasures" in the attic, a lot of which I have been donating to St. Vincent. I serve on the board of directors for the Belleville Area Cultural Foundation and for the Friends of the Belleville Public Library. I am the treasurer for both of these organizations.

I have grown as a person by contributing my time and efforts to any number of organizations, ex. Girl Scouts, my church, Luke House meal program, etc. While helping whatever the mission is of that organization, you are also heightening your own awareness of whatever cause is promoted, thus helping to make our world a better place.

Eunice (Hoffman) Fisher '58

While I was still very young, and as a result of loving and wanting to follow Jesus' example, I have been committed to living a life of service. I have found ways to do this outside of the traditional professions (medical, pastoral, etc.), often through personal relationships and cooperation within areas of church work. I've learned that as an individual I can make a difference, especially in combination with others who share my passion for doing whatever we can, even in wee measure. Twenty people giving $5 each means $100 to benefit an organization doing God's work. Every little bit helps!

So many great organizations are out there, all needing financial support to meet the critical needs of the people they serve! And they appreciate my donation, no matter how small. Before I donate to any organization, I check its record on Charity Navigator, and choose to give only to those who receive its highest (4-star) rating. I also give to my church and other local groups who are known for their community service.

At age 84 I no longer drive, and my physical participation in these groups has come to an end, but my heart and my slender but not empty purse still drive my ambition to help where and when I can, with whatever means God puts at my disposal. I especially appreciate the reports I receive from some of the groups I support, because they tell me that "I helped do this."

Erik Gehrke '00

Major: Criminal Justice, Politics

As a police officer in the community, I may often only be seen in one light, and in today's cultural and political climate, it may not be a particularly good light. So I feel it is very important that people see that I am more than just an employee of the community, that I am concerned for the wellbeing of others and especially for those who have had a less fortunate upbringing. That is why I volunteer for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Chicago.

I had a great relationship with my father and not everyone has had that guidance in their life. So being a mentor for my "Little Brother" Angel means I can hopefully be a positive role model in his life while also showing him and his family that there are police officers all around this country that truly care about improving their community.

The biggest impact on me is seeing how much positive interaction with a police officer can influence a young child. Listening to Angel and his perspective of rode models and police officers is different than from my children and really hearing what that means to him has been a great learning experience for me.

Children with negative contacts with police will remember that forever so it is vitally important to have continued positive contact with children in the community. Additionally, after spending weeks with him playing football, seeing him score multiple touchdowns in his game, I was so happy for him, pounding my fists in the air!

Hermione Huo '20

Major: Graphic CommunicationPsychology

I'm currently working with autistic children. I can see the positive impact on those children and their family that my team and I brought to. I participated in the Spectrum of Colors Race across greater Wisconsin. This is an event led by Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin (ASGW) and its local affiliate network that raised awareness and fund for individuals and families affected by autism throughout our communities.

For this particular event in which I participated, I'm just hoping to bring more awareness and understanding to this community. There are many kids that do not get enough assistance they need due to so many environmental factors. There is so much more we can do. From my job and this volunteer event, I learned that each kid is different and every single one of them shines in their own way. All they need is some extra guidance and patience. It is such a rewarding feeling to see how much my clients have improved and eventually going to a regular school with peers!

Carroll has always had a good connection with the community around campus. As an international student, I got a lot of help from the community and the community gives a sense of home as well. It makes me feel connected and supported. Therefore, I hope to give it back and further help others.

Andrea Janey '05

Major: Communication

After Carroll, I came back to my hometown. It's where I grew up, it's where my family is, and it's "home" for sure. Volunteering and being involved with various programs at the Sheboygan County Historical Society and Museum has really helped to keep me connected to the community and my roots.

I started volunteering at the Sheboygan County Historical Society and Museum as part of United Way's Day of Caring in 2017. It was supposed to be a one-time thing, for a few hours, to give back to the community. I've always loved history and being there made me realize how much I missed studying it.

Working at the museum gives me a chance to share my love of history, and my hometown with visitors. I love being able to share that and help other people, whether they're local or not, to have that same connection, even if it's just for a little while. After spending a day, I love being able to share that and help other people, whether they're local or not, to have that same connection, even if it's just for a little while. After spending the day at the museum, I feel like I've given my soul the reset it needs!

My favorite part is working at our holiday event. Who wouldn't want to spend the day in a beautiful 19th century home decorated for Christmas? I get to share the history of the home with guests of all ages and help create share some holiday magic and traditions with them, just like I was able to experience when I was little.

I've been helping to prepare for Holiday Memories at the museum for the last two months, only one more to go. 30 hours in, 30 to go! I've been packaging parts for make and take activities, cutting out paper craft supplies, and going over historical data for the upcoming holiday season!

A wise man once told me that we owe our community a debt for helping us become the person we are, and this is just one way that I can repay it.

Charmaine (Fischer) Ponkratz '77

Major: Business Administration, Speech Communication

My parents quietly showed the way to service; my father as a volunteer fireman in our small rural Wisconsin township, my mother by sharing the bounty of her over-sized garden with those who needed and appreciated.

I’ve applied that model of service in my own life. Many have heard me say that there are three difference makers in my life; my faith, my family and my education. To each I am trying to pay forward the blessings I have enjoyed.

Being able to retire early, in my 40s, gave me the opportunity to pursue an encore career as a volunteer to Carroll and my church. Both experiences have enriched my life --- by making friendships that share common values and by challenging me to contribute time and treasure to the causes that can change lives.

Right now, I am on the Mission Study Team (long-range planning) for our church as we prepare for calling a new pastor. At Presbytery I serve as moderator of the Steering Committee (the guiding council of the Presbytery), and serve on the team that is distributing $370,000 of grants to churches to support their efforts to add virtual ministry capabilities.

In November, our church has issued a challenge to contribute to a major fund-raising effort being undertaken by our Presbytery in coordination with other churches, foundations and philanthropists to raise money to build affordable housing for farm workers in Immokalee, Florida. These are the workers that harvest the food that ends up on our table. I will be contributing, financially, to that effort.

Perhaps it is because I never had any birth children (though I call 'our' five my own) that I seek an opportunity to leave a lasting footprint. That’s is why I established the endowed Fischer Ponkratz scholarship at Carroll and why I’ve poured passion into establishing and funding an endowment at our church.

A wise person said: “we only get one life, but if we live it right, once is enough!”

Linda (Leucht) Sklander '84

Major: Communication, Music

It is very important to put words into action. Being part of a community means I need to find what I can do as an individual to contribute to its success.

I have designed and helped to coordinate a notes of gratitude writing campaign for Carroll faculty and staff to share with the VA Center for gratitude. I have recruited and helped to coordinate a speaker to talk to our vets about how to network after their military service is done. As well, I have started a campaign to collect 'plyarn' to crochet sleeping mats for the homeless. It uses the plastic bags we get from stores in creating a useful tool for the homeless. I made gifts to Children's Hospital.

I have witnessed sincere gratitude in celebrating our veterans and their service. I would imagine, especially during this health crisis, the notes of gratitude we championed have had an even bigger impact on those confined to the hospital at the VA. I have also witnessed gratitude when delivering blankets to women’s shelters or pet shelters from the many volunteers I’ve encountered. I am particularly interested in collecting more ‘plyarn’ to create sleeping mats for our homeless. I feel a true sense of purpose when I can put my efforts into a tangible service.

Jennifer (Mayer) Wilson '90

Major: Psychology

I believe that we are fundamentally interdependent and that Dr. (Maya) Angelou's words are truer than true: “We need joy as we need air. We need love as we need water. We need each other as we need the earth we share.” I have received so much help throughout my life, and it's a joy to share what I have to give, too.

I wrote 200 postcards to infrequent voters in Wisconsin to encourage them to vote. I provided 40 hours of free coaching to leaders and individuals across the U.S. People signed up to get help with managing remote staff, leading through uncertainty, solving sticky organizational problems, developing personal resilience, and more. I donated to Wisconsin Conservation Voice to help get out the vote and turn the tide in our country.

If you've never been coached, you may not know what a powerful and collaborative process it is. In the 30-minute free coaching sessions I offered, people discovered their own solutions to problems ranging from finding the silver linings in the wake of declaring bankruptcy to designing spaces for hundreds of nationally-dispersed staff in an organization to talk about and make plans to take anti-racist action. Being present with people in the coaching space gives me hope and inspiration for my own life.

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