At 67, Judi Leonard has become a pro at handling disaster. Judi, who retired in 2014 from her job as an inventory manager for the Department of Defense, found her way to service once her 50- and 60-hour work weeks were in the rear-view mirror. When flooding struck her community in Minot, she showed up at the local Red Cross office ready to help. Since then, Judi has become a trusted volunteer, managing the satellite office in Minot and taking care of the building and fleet of response vehicles. Judi is a go-to volunteer who always gets the job done, whether it’s hosting a monthly volunteer meeting or traveling the 28 counties of Western North Dakota to inventory Red Cross disaster trailers. Judi’s dedication, commitment and empathy reaches beyond North Dakota – she was deployed to help folks after a major hurricane in North Carolina and she spent three weeks assisting victims of the California Camp Fire last fall.
Judi is committed to making a difference in her community and she is today’s Daily Point of Light Award honoree. Points of Light spoke with her about her commitment to service.
What inspires you to volunteer?
It started with the flood we had here in Minot. The Red Cross was advertising for volunteers and I knew that was something I’d like to do. When hurricane season came around, my friend and I traveled to Texas to help on the ground. That turned into traveling to other disaster sites where we really can make a big difference.
Describe your volunteer role.
I’m part of the Regional Volunteer Services Team, which involves a lot of community outreach. We go to people’s homes and install smoke alarms and staff booths at the local college during special events. We also are onsite if there is a house fire or some other disaster that displaces families. We hand out blankets, offer comfort, toys for the kids. We set up shelters when there is a need, feed folks, really anything that needs getting done.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
Helping people pure and simple. I’ve learned to listen more and show more compassion. To be very flexible when I’m deployed – you just never know what you might be doing. Working with other volunteers is also such a gift. I’ve met some really fantastic people who inspire me all the time.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
It takes a lot of patience. People are understandably upset and are desperate for answers. They are trying to control something when their lives are so out of control. It’s our job to really try to calm them and help them every step of the way.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
I’m excited to take some training classes at The Institute, the three-day training offered to Red Cross Volunteers. This year I’m going to take a Next Gen ERV driving class to drive emergency response vehicles. I continue to be involved with the Pillowcase Project, which takes us to schools to help the kids know what personal items to take with them in the case of an emergency. Same for Sound the Alarm, which brings smoke alarms into people’s homes. And I want to volunteer more with the Men’s Winter Refuge Shelter, which is open to homeless men from November through April 30. And to answer the call for deployments when that comes up.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
It’s very rewarding to help others in need. It truly energizes you.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
Just do it! Make it happen – if you feel that you would like to – take that step. It took me years to finally do it and I’m so happy I did.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Judi? Click here to find local volunteer opportunities.
This post was written by Beth D’Addono.