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Behind-the-Scenes Heroes and Heroines

The Time, Energy, Passion and Love of 13 Volunteers from 11 Midstate Charities and Nonprofits

Central Pennsylvania is filled with powerful charities and nonprofits that do so much to help improve the community we call home. None of those charities would be able to do what they do without the help of the countless volunteers who share their time, energy, passion, love and resources to the cause.


To get to know these altruistic individuals, Harrisburg Magazine asked a variety of local charities to connect us with some of their tireless helpers – 13 volunteers from 11 organizations – so that we might shed light on the behind-the-scenes heroes and heroines and learn more about the flourishing nonprofit community we are so lucky to have.


Nancy Abt

Volunteer at Humane Society of Harrisburg Area

“I volunteer...because of my love for animals,” says Abt. “My reward is very basic: I feel better when I leave and hope that I have made a difference in their lives.”


Abt, 67, is a retired registered nurse. She lives in Lower Paxton Township with her husband and cat.


Tell us about your volunteering work.

I began volunteering for the Humane Society of Harrisburg Area by serving on the board of directors for four years. After retiring from work, I became a cat socializer, and I am usually at the shelter several times a week. I also assist with the orientation of new volunteers and assist potential adopters in selecting a cat or kitten. During the summer months, there are many public events that the volunteers attend to raise awareness of the Humane Society and the many wonderful homeless pets waiting for adoption at the shelter.


Describe the feeling you get from volunteering.

I started volunteering at the shelter to help animals, but it has become so much more to me.  Being surrounded by so many wonderful animals is very calming. The positive attitude of the staff and other volunteers is so uplifting. Being part of what they all accomplish every day makes me happy.


Of all the charitable organizations out there, what is it about Humane Society of Harrisburg Area that compels you to volunteer?

Animals have always been a part of my life, and volunteering for the Humane Society seemed the best way to put my skills to use. There are so many animals that society has just discarded. They are living creatures that need someone to speak for them. The enormity of the task is sometimes overwhelming, but I want to be a part of giving these animals a better life in our community.


Final word?

Humane Society of Harrisburg Area offers many programs for the animals in our community – for example, Cruelty Department, Humane Education, Foster Care Program, Guardian Angel Program, Healing Haven (pet loss bereavement counseling), Low-Cost Spaying/Neutering, Low-Cost Vaccinations/Micro-chipping, Pet Food Bank, Safe Haven and Trap-Neuter Return (TNR).


For more information about Humane Society of Harrisburg Area, call (717) 564-3320 or visit humanesocietyhbg.org.


Patricia Bradford

Volunteer at Central Pennsylvania Food Bank

“We all say we are so very busy – and we are – but everyone can make some time to volunteer,” says Bradford. “Once you make the time to start going, it will be hard to stop.”


Bradford, 56, has worked for Verizon for the past 29 years. She calls Middletown home.


Tell us about your volunteering work.

I volunteer at the Food Bank weekly on Monday nights since February 2010. I volunteer in the warehouse, separating food into categories and packing boxes for distribution, general clean up, etc. – whatever is necessary.


Why do you volunteer?

It’s important to give back to the community – any one of us at any time may need the services that the Food Bank provides. I have a lot to be thankful for, and I feel like that is something that I can do. It’s important that we help others, and the Food Bank has many programs that benefit those that need so much, especially the elderly and programs for children.


Describe the feeling you get from volunteering.

I get satisfaction from contributing to a worthwhile organization. Giving of your time is a valuable contribution – in many cases, it’s worth more than a monetary donation. Everyone has time, so everyone can be a volunteer. I can’t solve world issues, but I can help make a difference in the communities that the Central PA Food Bank serves.


Final word?

As an active, full-time employee of Verizon, I am eligible to use the Volunteer Grant Program that provides opportunities for employees who volunteer 50 or more hours in the current calendar year with the same eligible U.S. nonprofit organizations. We are able to request a $750 grant from the Verizon Foundation on behalf of the organization. ...I have been able to do that for the Food Bank each of the last four years.


For more information about the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, call (717) 564-1700 or visit centralpafoodbank.org.


Brittany Brock

Volunteer at the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg & Harrisburg Young Professionals

“I would encourage everyone to get involved with one organization that they can relate to and give time and/or resources to moving their mission forward,” says Brock.


A 26-year-old Harrisburg resident, Brock is a graduate of Messiah College and currently works in commercial lending for M&T Bank.


Tell us about your volunteering work.

I began volunteering for the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg in March of 2014. In order to volunteer as a victim advocate for the Violence Intervention and Prevention (VIP) department of the Y, you must complete an intensive training curriculum that includes 40 hours of online webinars and 40 hours of mandatory in-class instruction. Those who complete the training are qualified to staff the YWCA’s 24-hour crisis hotline for domestic violence and sexual assault victims, serve as an escort for medical and legal accompaniments, serve as a facilitator for support groups, assist in the YWCA’s emergency shelter, perform clerical duties and represent the VIP at prevention education events in the community. I completed my training in May and have since been picking up two or three, eight-hour shifts a month covering the crisis hotline. The VIP department of the YWCA deals with victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, specifically. In addition to volunteering, I serve as an advisory board member for the VIP department. As a victim of sexual abuse, I felt compelled to get involved with the YWCA. After graduating college, I received services at SARCC (Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center) that offered similar services as the YWCA for sexual abuse. I felt the change in my life was so significant after receiving counseling and going to their support group that I needed to give back to the local community. It was important to me that I take an ugly thing that had occurred in my life and turn it into something positive. For me, breaking the silence and speaking out was a very freeing activity.


Why do you volunteer?

I volunteer because the victims of sexual assault and domestic violence deserve a voice, and often times when you’re in an abusive relationship, it can be hard to find that voice on your own. It takes advocates and community leaders speaking out against violence and empowering victims through various services offered to create a powerful change in their lives. I felt that change, so I know it can happen for others. My hope is that the work I am doing through the YWCA will help to educate the public on how to prevent abuse from occurring and support victims of abuse after it has happened. If I can touch one life, I count it as a success. I am also an active volunteer for the Harrisburg Young Professionals and devote significant time and energy to supporting the mission and goals of the organization. HYP’s mission is to serve as a catalyst in making Harrisburg a better place to live, work and play by developing and retaining future leaders. ...I started on the economic development committee and began learning about the multitude of ways the organization supports the city and various community partners. For the past three years, I served as a co-chair on two different committees and was recently nominated to the board of directors. I am proud to give my time and money to HYP because it is an organization that is a bright spot and positive group in our city. The volunteers are energetic and fun but determined to make a difference in our community through street clean-ups and beautification events; the annual Home Tour, which brings 1,000 people into the city to admire the beautiful neighborhoods we have and encourage home ownership in the city; or the outreach events we conduct with city youth organizations, to name a few.


What is the single most important moment of charity you have ever been a part of or witnessed?

One of the most impactful moments of charity I have witnessed was during the flood of 2011. My hometown of Binghamton/Apalachin, [N.Y.] where my parents still live was hit hard, like many other places along the Susquehanna River. What struck me most was watching the way the entire community pulled together to help each other out. Neighbors slept at my parents’ house because their first and second floors were filled with water. People were sharing generators and gasoline, helping pull destroyed belongings and materials from homes, even rescuing pets that were stranded. It’s always amazing to see how people react during the most trying of times.


For more information about the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg, call (717) 234-7931 or visit ywcahbg.org. For more information about Harrisburg Young Professionals, visit hyp.org.


Shannon Deatrich & Julie Neal

Volunteers at Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Harrisburg Area

“I volunteer because it feels better than just complaining or worrying,” says Neal. “I do not want to just sit back and wish for a better world; I want to be a part of creating something better. I get a sense of satisfaction that I am doing my best with this small part to effect positive change.”


“I always tell people I volunteer because it feeds my soul,” says Deatrich. “It allows me to give of myself. I always walk away feeling as if I’ve gotten more from the experience than I’ve given. ...Through volunteering, I’ve also gotten some of the best friends someone could ever ask for.”


Deatrich and Neal volunteer together on Habitat for Humanity’s Annual Art Auction Committee. Deatrich, 41, is a loan documentation specialist with Riverview Bank and lives with her husband and their dog in Harrisburg. Neal, 42-year-old mother of two, owns Visions of Honey photography studio and resides in Hershey with her husband.


Tell us about your volunteering work.

Neal: I have been volunteering at Habitat for eight years in many different functions – from ripping up floor boards, to painting trim and transporting items to ReStore on Paxton Street. 

Currently, I am working on our Annual Art Auction Committee. This is our 10th year for the event, and it will be held at the Hershey Country Club. This role is a year-round duty looking for artists who are willing to donate their works, locating companies for sponsorships and donations for our silent auction items.

Deatrich: I’ve been volunteering in various small ways for about 20 years, doing various fundraising walks and such, but more actively in the last 10 years with Habitat for Humanity on construction sites, the Art Auction and captaining a team for the Highmark Walk.


Of all the charitable organizations out there, what is it about Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Harrisburg Area that compels you to volunteer?

Deatrich: I got involved with Habitat for Humanity on a fluke. My girlfriend said, “Hey, they’re doing a ‘Women Build.’ Let’s do it!” So we did, and I was hooked – doing construction is very different than my desk job, and I fell in love with it. The people, the staff and the volunteers are just amazing, and it’s good to surround yourself with good and positive people of all ages.

Neal: Habitat is so much more then just building modest, affordable housing; it’s about building homes, building communities and building hope. It’s creating an inheritance for a family that is working their way out of poverty to create a better life for their family and their community. What makes this organization unique is that Habitat doesn’t just build one house; they work to rebuild entire blocks and sections of the city. This has a ripple effect beyond the individual families. It increases property values for the surrounding homes and attracts businesses. Their critical home repair program also helps the elderly, ill and low-income home owners stay in their homes by bringing them up to code. Habitat also has their ReStore, which not only makes home improvement supplies available and affordable, but also helps our environment by keeping items out of the landfills. The money generated from donated items flows right back into the Habitat mission of eliminating poverty housing.


What is the single most important moment of charity you have ever been a part of or witnessed?

Neal: Growing up in the Milton Hershey School is by far the most powerful charity I have witnessed. Since my parents were house parents, I lived in a student home for most of my childhood. I learned from a very early age to put the needs of others in front of my own. I shared not only meals and household responsibilities with students, but I also shared my parents. I experienced firsthand that we are all human and we all deserve an equal playing field no matter what our race, family background or financial standing. Only when the struggle to survive is taken out of the equation can you make room for the opportunity to be who you were created to be.

Deatrich: There are two, one with Habitat for Humanity and one in my home. The Habitat one was during the first week of construction on the duplex being done by Women Build and the Silver Spring Presbyterian Church. The day the full front wall was raised was amazing. There must have been 40-plus people working together to raise and place it, and having my mother and niece with me made it all the better. It was surreal. The one in my home happened two Christmases ago at our annual party. We did a book drive for Downey Elementary School here in Harrisburg, and through various means, more than 30 people donated around 500 books for children they didn’t know. That was very powerful to my husband and me.


Final Word?

Deatrich: If you would like to see Habitat in action, please plan to attend our 10th Annual Art Auction, Art Builds Homes on March 27, 2015 at the Hershey Country Club at 6 p.m.

Neal: Habitat for Humanity is currently seeking donations of original art in all media by the creating artist.


For more information about Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Harrisburg Area, call (717) 545-7299 or visit harrisburghabitat.org.


Karen Deklinski

Volunteer at American Red Cross of the Susquehanna Valley

“It is just a great feeling,” Deklinski says. “You know you are making a difference; you are using your talents to accomplish something good. As an organizer and a planner and a self described ‘fixer’ of problems, volunteering matches my personality. ...The more you put into it, the more you get out of it.”


Deklinski, 57, works for the Department of Environmental Protection. With her husband, son and daughter, she calls Wormleysburg home.


Tell us about your volunteering.

I volunteer five to 20 hours every week. Sometimes it is just a breakfast meeting or a conference call, and sometimes it is all day on a weekend going door to door with fire prevention brochures or making fundraising calls. The vast majority of my volunteer efforts revolve around raising money and getting more people to volunteer. I am currently chair of the board for Central Pennsylvania Red Cross.


Why do you volunteer?

I was raised to believe there are certain things you do in life – go to school, get a job, get married, have a family and give back to the community. From the time I can remember, my mother drove an ambulance for the volunteer fire company, and all my brothers were volunteer fireman. My grandmother was a founding member of the Allegheny County Salvation Army back in the 1920s. As kids growing up, we were always delivering food, clothes and even furniture to families in the area. The two greatest needs of any philanthropic organization are time and money. Since I did not have a lot of money, I started volunteering my time every chance I got.


Of all the charitable organizations out there, what is it about the American Red Cross of the Susquehanna Valley that compels you to volunteer?

The organization itself. The Red Cross has a tremendous name and a tremendous reputation as a humanitarian organization. It is one of the many organizations run mostly by volunteers at every level. I have always lived on the river. Growing up in Western Pa. and now in Wormleysburg, I am no stranger to floods and other hazards rivers can impose. My brothers and now my husband and son are volunteer firemen – seeing fires and floods often, I guess I just got used to hearing, “The Red Cross was there to help.”


What is the single most important moment of charity you have ever been a part of or witnessed?

I enjoy fundraising. I don’t shy away from asking people for money, but I get incredibly moved by the generosity of the community. There are many humanitarian stories where the Red Cross has responded to people who have lost everything they own to a fire. None of those stories are possible without the generosity of thousands of people.


For more information about the American Red Cross of the Susquehanna Valley, call (866) 311-3832 or visit redcross.org/pa/harrisburg.


Arthur Kravitz

Volunteer at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Harrisburg (JCC)

“JCC volunteers are a dedicated bunch,” says Kravitz. “We all share the same commitment and motivation. We also share the same goals – that our JCC continues to build community and continues to flourish. We are rewarded by the enthusiasm of our fellow members. We cherish the quality time we have together in our second home, with our second family.”


A Harrisburg resident, Kravitz practices dentistry in Camp Hill, is a father of four, a grandfather of two and will be celebrating his 40th wedding anniversary this coming June.


Tell us about your volunteering work.

I have been the chairperson of the Sports, Fitness and Recreation Department of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Harrisburg since the early 1990s. I work closely with the department head, Terri Travers, by helping integrate fellow volunteers in meeting department needs. I also volunteer as an indoor cycling (spinning) instructor for six classes a week and a group fitness (boot camp) instructor one to two times per week.


Describe the feeling you get from volunteering.

The rewards of volunteering are the feelings of excitement and fulfillment. The excitement is in planning and visualizing the upcoming workout. The fulfillment is in the sights and sounds of the participants as they achieve their workout goals.


Of all the charitable organizations out there, what is it about the JCC that compels you to volunteer?

The motivation to volunteer at the Harrisburg JCC began as a result of my deployment to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm. While serving with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Saudi, I noticed that the Arab maps of the Middle East did give a name to the outlined borders of Israel. The message of that was not missed. The importance of maintaining a strong JCC, back home, became very compelling. Membership to our JCC is not limited to people of the Jewish faith. Our members, like our country, constitute a diverse mixture. Where we flourish is, through this diversity, we break preconceived barriers and build friendships and community. The camaraderie that has grown as a result of the classes is infectious. We frequently compare our environment to that of the sitcom Cheers, where everybody knows your name. Volunteering at our JCC is most rewarding because our members share the same enthusiasm.


For more information about the JCC, call (717) 236-9555 or visit jewishharrisburg.org.


Amanda Robinette

Volunteer at The Salvation Army Harrisburg Capital City Region

“Doing something for other people needs to be a regular part of life,” says Robinette, “just like eating well, taking care of our bodies, spending time with family, working toward professional goals and having time to pursue interests. To me, life is not complete if that facet is missing.”


Robinette, 43, resides in Hampden Township and is a weaver and tai chi instructor as well as a wife and mother of two.


Tell us about your volunteering work.

I coordinate other volunteer drivers and drive to deliver food donations from area restaurants to The Salvation Army. The food donations come from what would have been waste – for example, the unsold soup left in the pot at the end of the day or the extra baked potatoes. Sometimes restaurants order too much of something. We pick up fresh food three times a week or frozen food once a week from seven sites. Some of those sites have more than one restaurant under the same management company, so it is really about nine restaurants, and we are adding more all the time.


Of all the charitable organizations out there, what is it about The Salvation Army Harrisburg Capital City Region that compels you to volunteer?

The Salvation Army is one of the most reputable and trusted charities in America. Eighty-two cents of every dollar they receive go directly to programs for people in need. Evangeline Booth, the fourth General of The Salvation Army (1934-1939) and the daughter of founder William Booth, said, “There is no reward equal to that of doing the most good to the most people in the most need.” This is a goal that supersedes all concerns of social status, race or religion. My husband has served on the advisory boards of two Salvation Army Corps with diverse groups of dedicated individuals. The constant focus is accessing those who need help and getting them what they need. This very direct and basic approach is appealing to me.


What is the single most important moment of charity you have ever been a part of or witnessed?

The opportunity for big, life-changing giving isn’t always there for anyone, and, for some, never comes around at all. It’s the constant flow of small acts of generosity that makes the world go round.


Final word?

This program could not function without the generosity of the participating restaurants and the willingness of the individuals working at those restaurants. It also couldn’t happen without all of the volunteer drivers, past and present, who have contributed their time, vehicle wear and tear and fuel. These people are out there every week in all kinds of weather and traffic conditions keeping the food moving. I’d also like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the staff at the participating restaurants, The Salvation Army employees and especially the volunteer drivers who make this program work.


For more information about The Salvation Army Harrisburg Capital City Region, call (717) 233-6755 or visit salvationarmyharrisburg.org.


Dixie & Parker Shambaugh

Volunteers at Bethesda Mission

“We feel joy and contentment as we serve those who are hurting and trying to get their lives in order,” the Shambaughs say.


Dixie, 68, worked in the medical field as a phlebotomist, and Parker, 81, was a computer programmer for 37 years. Both retired, they live in Camp Hill.


Tell us about your volunteering work.

Dixie & Parker: We have volunteered at the mission for four years. We serve the second and the fourth Thursday of each month, working in the kitchen helping the residents serve food, as well as lending an ear, and above all, encouraging them as they go through the program of recovery from drugs, alcohol and other addictions.


Why do you volunteer?

Dixie: I feel we’re following the teachings of Jesus to serve those less fortunate.

Parker: Scripture directs us to provide for the widows, the orphans, the stranger in our midst and those with limited standing in society. Bethesda provides for the homeless, the addicted and the socially disenfranchised. In serving at Bethesda, we believe we are fulfilling that calling.


Of all the charitable organizations out there, what is it about Bethesda Mission that compels you to volunteer?

Dixie & Parker: Bethesda is solely supported by private donations. There is no funding from any government agencies. It shows the love and concern our community has for those less fortunate.


What is the single most important moment of charity you have ever been a part of or witnessed?

Dixie & Parker: It is rewarding to hear the testimonies of those that have gone through the program and are grateful that they have been given a second chance in life. It truly makes this ministry very special to us when we hear the stories of their success.


For more information about Bethesda Mission, call (717) 257-4442 or visit bethesdamission.org.


Donna and Peter Stanilla, Jr.

Volunteers at The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central PA

“I get a happiness and calmness from volunteering,” says Donna, “the feeling of doing good, doing something for other people that are in stress.”


Peter adds, “A lot of the people here will come up and tell you how pleased they are that they are here and what you are doing makes them feel better. And that makes you feel better.”


Both 71 and retired – Donna a stay-at-home mom and Peter an accountant – the Stanillas reside in Lebanon and recently celebrated their 50th anniversary.


Tell us about your volunteering work.

Donna: We are here twice a week and any other time that they need us – usually four or five hours. I clean the kitchens. There are two large kitchens, and they do get dirty, so I clean them. And I enjoy making it shiny.

Peter: I come with her every Tuesday and Friday. Tuesday, I’m in the basement working with the basement crew where we are organizing all the donations – the toys, cosmetics, everything that comes in.


Describe the feeling you get from volunteering.

Donna: We never have the feeling of, “I don’t want to come in today.” We’ve been on vacations, and we’ve missed the whole week, and although we were happy to be on vacation, I was wondering how the house was doing. The other volunteers and the staff is great, too. You have to have a good staff to want to come in, too. That’s part of it.


Of all the charitable organizations out there, what is it about The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central PA that compels you to volunteer?

Donna: It takes the stress off of them knowing that they will have a place to sleep and some food, so they don’t have that to worry about. And, of course, they are not asked to make a donation here. This is only one of two houses in the country that do not ask for a donation to stay.

Peter: There are a lot of great volunteers, but also the donations in this area are fantastic.


For more information about The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central PA, call (717) 533-4001 or visit rmhc-centralpa.org.


Jonathan Vipond, III
Volunteer at The United Way of the Capital Region

“It’s the sense of assisting someone else – as so many have helped me – I am balancing the moral ledger in very small ways,” says Vipond of volunteering.


Vipond, 70, is the senior health care shareholder in Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney’s Harrisburg office, as well as vice chair of the Health Care Section. He was also “elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives representing Lackawanna and Susquehanna counties in the 1970s, was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to serve as his deputy assistant for public liaison at the White House and by Governor Dick Thornburgh to serve as chief counsel to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare.”


Tell us about your volunteering work.

I have always been a volunteer of some sort since childhood, helping out in Northeastern, Pa. at a children’s home and a camp for the less-privileged, and as a Boy Scout and at our church. My parents had been ardent and modest volunteers as community leaders (and always leaders in The United Way) and generous givers reminding us thoughtfully of how fortunate and “privileged” we were. As an adult, I have had that ethic and sense of helping in my genetic hard-wiring and am very lucky indeed.


Why do you volunteer?

“Volunteering,” by which I mean helping whenever and wherever reasonably needed in one’s community or school or organization, is just part of what we as fortunate individuals do. Luck has so much to do with where one ends up in a job or a relationship or in a competition. I was elected to the PA House of Representatives on a long shot at age 27, and I learned that, in politics at least, the outcome, though counted in votes, and the “luck” depended on the help of many – so to help few or many and to increase the “luck” for others is why I volunteer.


What would you say to others to encourage them to volunteer at the United Way of Capital Region, as well as any other charity in the area?

It is the most prudent, professional and caring human services leadership and fundraising organization I can imagine, and it respects and works with everyone.  Every volunteer should have some United Way experience as it takes away parochialism and uplifts our views on the community and its needs. Second, life without helping others is not a full and fulfilled life. It is not “charity;” it is about helping our fellow men and women as they support and help us. It is about robust community life.


For more information about The United Way of the Capital Region, call (717) 732-0700 or visit uwcr.org.

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