Tag: House of Mercy

Linda Ross,
Executive Director


Editor’s note: As a Leadership Development Academy alum (Class of 2013-14), Linda Ross is passionate about the mission of the organization and enjoys working as  Executive Director/Program Facilitator. Wisdom acquired at LDA empowers her to continue her success in business.  She is excited to work with others to obtain their leadership goals.

Volunteering and Mini-Projects

Volunteering can change your life and the lives of others.  The Leadership Development Academy class learned all about that from our panel of experts, then were able to put what they learned into practice.  In the morning we met at IronTek in Beloit.  During the afternoon,  participants divided up into teams and worked on mini-projects at non-profits in Beloit.

A Panel who Loves Volunteers!

Have you ever been listening so intently to someone that you forgot to do something? I forgot to take the panel’s photo.  Yes, I did, so I’ll just have to tell you about it and show you a photo of a cute puppy available for adoption from one of our panel member’s non-profit.  I think you will be able to figure out which one it is from.

Our panel was moderated by Jennifer Johns from Mercyhealth, and included Donna Ambrose from Caritas, Michelle Matthys from First National Bank, Brett Frazier from the Rock County Humane Society, Sandy Johnson from CASA of Rock County and Jill Ayres from Mercy Hospital.  They are all passionate and love volunteers.  They find their volunteers from word of mouth, social gatherings, social media, and hopefully from this blog.

Volunteers are Customers

Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center in Janesville has more than 81,000 volunteer hours recorded each year, the equivalent of more than 39 full time staff members.  Jill Ayres stressed the importance of choosing where you would like to volunteer based on your passion.  She said volunteers are her customers, so she makes sure to thank them every day, keep them busy and make time for them, so they feel important.

Volunteers Must be Committed

Sandy Johnson, who started as a volunteer for CASA, and is now the director, has walked the walk, so now she can talk the talk to the LDA class.  She makes sure to choose the right volunteers to serve at CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Rock County.  Not everyone is cut out for the job.  They have to be committed, reliable and be willing to stay for as long as the child needs them.  Most of the children, who are served at CASA, are under age five and are great kids.  They need someone who will stick with them, because the last thing they need is another person to walk out of their lives.

Let Them Discover Their Passion

Volunteering has to be positive and have an element of fun, Brett Frazier from the Rock County Humane Society, told the participants.  You can’t place restrictions on volunteers.  Let them discover their passion.  A young person may come in the door thinking they want to walk dogs, then participate in a surgery and find they want to go to school to be a vet tech. Don’t limit them.  Brett said some of the best volunteers go to organizations with opportunities or ideas they have for them.  Sometimes the ideas help shape the organization’s future.

Volunteering Makes You Humble

Find something you are passionate about.  Boards don’t need bodies, they need working bodies. When you are at events, you had better be representing boards you are sitting on. Great advice from Michelle Matthys from First National Bank.  She enjoys networking and has become friends with those she is on boards with.  As humans, we are selfish and volunteering makes you humble, she told the class.  Don’t volunteer for personal gain.  If you have an agenda, don’t volunteer.  If you are looking to help others and give back, volunteering is for you.

Feedback is Important

Donna Ambrose, from Caritas, has learned a lot of skills from volunteers and volunteering, such as human resource skills.  People need to find their niche or professional skill set and give time to organizations that fit them.  Donna has been seeing an increase in volunteers, especially from high schools and first responders.  She likes feedback from volunteers, because if she doesn’t know something is wrong, she can’t fix it.  Flexibility and people who understand their mission are her best volunteers.

All of our panel had heartwarming stories to tell about their volunteers.  They said they could go on and on.  Volunteering changes people and organizations.  Most non-profits could not do the great work they do without them.  Volunteer and change the community you live in!

Benefits of Volunteering

Erin Loveland

Erin Loveland shared the benefits of volunteering.  She has been with House of Mercy for years and has a heart for the homeless and for volunteers.  Many of us don’t think about most volunteer opportunities being in informal settings, such as shoveling for your neighbor or making dinner for someone who is sick.  People who volunteer have an increased sense of well being and mental health.  You can learn job skills and network.  Many community services would have to decrease without volunteer labor and Erin is grateful for those who volunteer.

School Leaders, Parks & Families

Speeches were on the agenda for those who couldn’t share at the last session.  Most chose to share Rock County’s great assets.  Teachers and school leaders, as well as the wonderful parks and businesses in our communities came up.  Families are admired.  We all have so much to be thankful for in the area we live in.  Look around you and pay attention, then thank others who make Rock County a better place to be.

Civic Responsibilities & Government

Dan Cunningham, from Forward Janesville, is very passionate about politics and government.  It shows.  Dan encouraged the participants to contact their legislators and local officials.  He said government is everywhere and we can make a big difference by getting involved locally.  A group from Rock County recently took a trip to Washington DC, and Dan, who used to work there, said it feels “normal”.  Government is not built to change quickly and it takes time to see results.  Government is everywhere in our lives, so get involved and make a difference, he told the class.

Dan Cunningham

Greater Beloit Chamber & IronTek

The Greater Beloit Chamber hosted us at Irontek and provided a taco bar for lunch.  They always treat us so well and we appreciate their hospitality!  If you have not been to the business incubator to visit, be sure to stop by soon.  

Megan O’Leary Photography

Irontek was a great place for the class to take group and team photos.  The space is bright, airy and interesting.  Megan O’Leary Photography does a fantastic job for us each year.  Come back next month to see the photos.


In the afternoon, the class was able to put their volunteer skills into practice.  Four non-profits in Beloit needed help, so the class pitched in to make a difference in their community.  

Stateline Boys & Girls Club

One of the teams worked at the Stateline Boys & Girls Club.  The weather was beautiful, so they started in an outside garage area, then moved into organizing their art classroom and inside storage areas. They filled two dumpsters and really made a difference for them.

Beloit Domestic Violence Survivor Center

Another team helped out at the Beloit Domestic Violence Survivor Center.  They worked on painting their main bathroom and a wall in their living room.  It looked fresh and clean when they were finished.

Community Action

Community Action was looking for help in their Community Garden, as well as doing some odd jobs at one of the houses they are working on in the Merrill neighborhood.  I was impressed with the amount of work they had done by the time I got there.


Caritas needed help unloading their Second Harvest Food Bank Truck. Once unloaded, the team helped inside with sorting, labeling and many other jobs that needed to be done.  It was fun to watch everyone so eager to tackle each job with gusto.

Making a Difference

Another great day at the Leadership Development Academy session, making a difference in our communities by giving back and volunteering.  Nonprofits always need help, so find one that fits your skill set and get started today!

Linda Ross,
Executive Director

Editor’s note: As a Leadership Development Academy alum (Class of 2013-14), Linda Ross is passionate about the mission of the organization and enjoys working as  Executive Director/Program Facilitator. Wisdom acquired at LDA empowers her to continue her success in business.  She is excited to work with others to obtain their leadership goals.

Homelessness, Poverty and Diversity

Homelessness, poverty and diversity.  Tough problems.  What is being done to help with these issues?  Can the Leadership Development Academy make a difference or are the problems too big?  Listening to heartbreaking journeys, participants walked through simulations and did some soul searching during their January session at Community Action in Beloit.

A Changed Man

Danny Robinson lost everything.  Drugs and alcohol took it away.  Danny lost a job of many years, his marriage, his family, his home, his car, everything.  Hitting rock bottom, he was brought to a treatment center, then sent to Gifts Men’s Shelter in Janesville.  With a huge chip on his shoulder when he arrived, it took awhile to soften his heart.  

Now a changed man, Danny is helping others on their journey to recovery.  It wasn’t easy, but he is a success story.  He has a twinkle in his eye and joy in his heart.  Danny choked up when he talked about finally having his grand-kids call him Paw Paw again.   He wants to share his story with others to help them.  Rock County has 250 to 350 homeless needing to be housed each night.  We are thankful for Danny and the many shelters and programs in our area that help the homeless to get back on their feet.

Homelessness is a Major Issue

Homelessness is a big problem with every age group.  No one is immune.  Our panel on poverty and homelessness shared what they are doing to help. Stephanie Burton from the Gifts Men’s Shelter, Erin Loveland from House of Mercy, Tammy DeGarmo from Project 16:49 and Carrie Kulinski from the School District of Janesville were all on hand to share.  

Young children lose 6 months of learning each time they move to a different school.  Drugs, sex trafficking, sexual abuse, alcoholism and physical abuse are some of the issues they are dealing with.  Heartbreaking and eye opening. Each of the panel members are very passionate about these issues.  They continue to attempt to remove barriers.  Transportation issues is one of the biggest.  Holding down a job is nearly impossible without transportation.  The HITF (Homeless Intervention Task Force) is addressing many of these issues through education and awareness.  Involvement and education is key.

One in Five Live in Poverty in Wisconsin

Hunger is an issue throughout the world.  Sometimes we turn a blind eye to it.  The Leadership Development Academy class experienced a hunger simulation during the session.  Facilitating the program was Bard Meier, from the Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee.  Each participant was given an identity.  Some single with transportation; others with large families and no transportation.  Each with a different amount of money and parameters they were working with, while attempting to feed their family for three days.  Many found it frustrating and nearly impossible.   

Why do we throw LDA participants into situations they are not equipped to deal with?  For a learning experience.  People who are hungry do not choose to be hungry, yet they have to feed their family everyday.  Many have jobs, but not enough money to provide for their basic needs. One in five people live in poverty in Wisconsin.  Rural areas are impacted more, due to transportation issues.  In northern Wisconsin, one in three live in poverty.  There are resources, but sometimes those resources are difficult to obtain.  Therefore, communities who will not admit there is a problem can leave families and children hungry.

Spoiled Again

Participants were treated to homemade scones and coffee from Joe and Amber Jimenez; and Johnson Bank provided a delicious lunch.  Johnson Bank has been one of our sponsors for many years and we are thankful for their partnership.

Team Projects

Working with project teams each month are board mentors.  This year’s projects are benefiting Project 16:49, Caritas, First Responders of Rock County, the Gifts Men’s Shelter and the Boys and Girls Club of Janesville.

Restorative Practices and Diversity

Diversity comes in many forms. Walking the class through a session on diversity was Tasha Bell and David Wilson, from the School District of Beloit.  Mutual respect, speaking the truth and confidentiality are a must.  Sharing how to work through “Restorative Practices” was interesting.  Don’t ask, “Why?”, ask “What happened?”  

At the beginning of the session, participants were asked, “What gets in the way of you being the best professional you can be?”  At the end of the session, they were asked, “If you came to yourself for help, how would you help yourself to overcome those things?”

We all need to have an understanding of human differences to learn more and judge less.  What is our purpose? Great session for becoming empowered!

Community Action

Katie Lawler, from Community Action, who is in our Leadership Development Academy class, provided information on the services they offer.  Leading the class on a tour of the facility, she gave them a better understanding of Community Action.

Kids Against Hunger

John Wong shared what Kids Against Hunger is all about.  The Rotary Clubs of Rock County are working together to help support this organization. Millions of meals have been provided locally, as well as being sent throughout the world. Sharing some excellent leadership tips, John was encouraging.  He inspired the class to learn how to delegate, follow through with what you say you are going to do, be efficient, be respectful of others opinions and time, and to give back of your time, talents and wealth.  John said, “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you talk.”   We are thankful for local leaders who share with our class and are truly making a difference in our community.


Empowering day, filled with some tough moments.  Each person walked away with a better understanding of these challenges and of themselves.  They now know how they can make a difference with poverty, homelessness and diversity; and I am confident they will!

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