Jody Weyers stands by the well-worn adage, “Volunteering is good for the soul.”
She should know. As volunteer and communications director for the American Red Cross Lakeland Chapter, Weyers calls on more than 450 registered volunteers who commit their time, talent and treasure to aid people they’ve likely never met, during circumstances most often beyond their control.
“Every day I am amazed at the dedication of our volunteers, their commitment and caring nature for what they do and how they support the organization,” said Weyers.
For her own service to the community, Weyers, a 1996 UW-Green Bay graduate (communication and history) will be recognized with the Outstanding Recent Alumni Award at Alumni Awards Night, Saturday, April 30. The event will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Weidner Center for Performing Arts at UW-Green Bay.
When international disasters occur, such as the recent earthquake and Tsunami in Japan, the role of local Red Cross chapters is to lead communication efforts on behalf of American relief efforts. Weyers said that Japan has its own strong Red Cross chapter responding to the tragedy but is asking for financial help from around the world to support the large relief operation.
But when disaster hits in the local community, local, trained volunteers are ready to respond quickly with flexibility to the situation.
“There is no convenient time for a disaster,” she says. “As the communications director for the chapter, I am technically always on call. Fire, flood, tornado, whatever the disaster, the information needs to get out immediately. That may involve working long hours, weekends and changing personal plans because of a disaster situation.”
Weyers thrives in an organization that is not about giving a “hand out” but about giving a “hand up.”
“No one is exempt from the possibility of a disaster happening to them,” she explains. “I am comforted knowing that there is an agency out there to support people if something of this nature does occur to them. I am also proud of the fact that we are a volunteer-led organization.
“In September of 2008, I went on my first National Red Cross deployment to Houston, Texas, to support the relief efforts following the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. I find it so incredible that it is volunteers who are running and sometimes in charge of these large disaster recovery operations. I was amazed at how organized and structured the operation was in the midst of the chaos a disaster brings to a community.”
The job doesn’t come without its challenges.
“Money is always a challenge,” Weyers says. “As a nonprofit organization, we have also felt the hit of the economy in regards to donations. I have to be very conscious of working within our budget and get creative sometimes to make our dollars stretch as far as possible.”
A native of Black Creek, Wis., Weyers said she grew up in a family that always seemed to be doing something to help someone else out. She credits her parents and grandparents for modeling a hard work ethic and caring nature — skills that suit Weyers in her Red Cross role.
“I have discovered that volunteering is a great way to meet new people, learn new skills, and is good for the soul,” she says. “Our oldest volunteer at the Red Cross just turned 95, and she always says, ‘I can sit home and worry about every little ache and pain or I can come in to volunteer and it seems like all those aches and pains go away, because I am around people I enjoy.’
“That’s the thing. It’s never too late to start volunteering,” Weyers says. “It’s about finding that passion, and connecting with an organization that you can channel that energy through. It is a magical thing when I see that connection in a volunteer working for the Red Cross.”