Volunteer Jennifer Wegener – Her reward is in her service

Volunteer Jennifer Wegener
The Red Cross is a great, long-standing charity with a strong, clear mission. I like that I can support the charity with my time.

Dino Ingram is a Red Cross Volunteer and contributing writer.

Jennifer Wegener LOVES the water. She also gets along swimmingly with her two, four-legged kids, Cali and Gonzo. She's been with Shawnee County Parks and Recreation (SCPR), since 1999 and is determined to work there until they decide to get rid of her. You could say that she REALLY loves her job. She has an official title but prefers the monikers “Pool Rat”, “Beach Bum”, “Water Bug” and not surprisingly, “Perpetual Child.” She’s responsible for the aquatics program activities for the Rossville and Silverlake areas and supervises three of the county’s aquatic facilities. Jennifer, this article is dedicated to you, so let’s dive in.

While she can’t remember exactly when she first got her feet wet working for the Red Cross, she describes her Red Cross involvement as starting when she was a teenager. “I was drawn to the water and lived at the pool every summer. It was a natural progression to Red Cross lifeguarding at the age of 15.”

As she got older, she continued her Red Cross training, increasing her certifications. Her actual certification list is very comprehensive: CPR & First Aid Instructor, Lifeguard Instructor, Water Safety Instructor, and Babysitter's Training Instructor.

Her career path, interests and real life experience fit better than a wetsuit. Her job with SCPR requires her to have aquatic certifications. These certifications have allowed her to be of benefit to the community in general, outside the bounds of the Red Cross. Using her training certifications, she instructed various classes for several community centers around the county. You could say that she's made quite a splash with her efforts.

As her relationship with the Red Cross developed, so did her volunteer life. She tested the waters of volunteerism and then really took the plunge when the Red Cross was in need of teachers with her particular list of certifications. This suited her perfectly. "I have free time and don't like to not have anything to do, so I volunteer." She speaks to other organizations about the Red Cross and teaches classes. For a time she worked on the first aid team for Kansas State University football games. She'd handle whatever other odds and ends that the Red Cross needed help with, as long as she was available.

The community at large is not the only beneficiary of her efforts. Her affiliation with the Red Cross has allowed her repeated opportunities to meet new people and work on her public speaking skills. Then there's also this more embarrassing twist that she shared with me.

"I've also benefitted in a very personal way, from my Red Cross skills. I've injured myself several times during home improvement projects and I'm too frugal to go to an emergency room. I've bandaged myself up using the first aid skills I teach to others. These incidents make great scars to show during class demonstrations."

Jennifer receives a high degree of satisfaction in helping others through her Red Cross volunteer efforts. She is a strong believer in the Red Cross mission and their outreach to so many areas. She's particularly inspired by the history of Clara Barton and Clara's motivation for starting the American Red Cross.

It seems that she takes a very self-effacing attitude regarding her volunteer efforts. "I don't really know if what I do benefits others as I have never really spoken to others after I have reached them. I'd like to think that someone has maybe saved a life from the skills I have taught or knew what to do in case of some kind of emergency.”

I asked her to share something that would encourage others to become volunteers. She shared the following, quite eloquently, I might add.

"The Red Cross is a great, long-standing charity with a strong, clear mission. I like that I can support the charity with my time. Some charities just want money, which I know the Red Cross can also use, but I don't have a lot of that. The Red Cross eagerly accepts those with time. This is one way I can give back."

Keep a keen eye out for future articles. You'll discover, in short order, the other ways that the skills that she's learned from the Red Cross, have 'given back' to others, in the form of a child, who's life was saved in a drowning incident. Jennifer may not have been directly involved in the upcoming story, but the skills that she learned from the Red Cross did have an impact. You WON'T want to miss it!

Jennifer, you're a superstar. Thanks for all your efforts to help others.