Not long after Dan Luthi graduated from nursing school in 2013, he started volunteering with the American Red Cross, and the Washington resident soon wound up assisting in relief after a major catastrophe.
“Later on that year in November, the tornado actually went through Washington,” Luthi said. “So I ended up being one of the nurses that helped to take care of people at one of the main shelters.”
Luthi’s continuing work with the American Red Cross has garnered recognition from the state with his selection as the West Central Region’s adult winner of this year’s Governor’s Volunteer Service Award.
“It’s just a huge honor to not only represent the American Red Cross, but represent the area and kind of represent those in our community that are volunteers,” Luthi said “I am very happy to volunteer and enjoy what I do. I don’t do it for the recognition, but to have this award is just an extra bonus.”
Peoria-based JIMAX Group of Illinois won the region’s award in the business category for its Tireless Project that has collected roughly 1,500 tires for recycling from across the city each month for the past five years.
“We are always happy to get our name out there more, to expand our services to more residents in Peoria,” said Jarrod Martis, who co-manages the project for JIMAX.
The awards were presented Wednesday afternoon by the Serve Illinois Commission during a virtual ceremony honoring 27 winners in six categories across five regions. Other winners in the West Central region include Deja Jenkins of Galesburg in the AmeriCorps category, and Joel Estes of Knoxville in the senior category.
Luthi, a full-time pediatric nurse, said he was first inspired to become a volunteer while he was in nursing school.
“I went through a public health clinical, and the nurse that I was following was involved in disaster planning for the county that we were in,” he said. “While I was watching what her daily duties were, she was encouraging me to figure out some way for me to volunteer and give back to my community.
“She knew of Red Cross, and she told me, ‘Hey, when you graduate, Red Cross is always looking for new volunteers and this would be a great opportunity for you to be able to learn a lot, and I think you’d really enjoy it.’”
Luthi spends more than 20 hours each week assisting Red Cross with disaster-related health needs and dispatching volunteers. He also helps in mentoring volunteers and said Red Cross is always happy to welcome new people.
“It’s very gratifying. You feel like you’re more useful if you can help fill a need that exists out there,” said Luthi, a California native who also has been involved with Special Olympics and Apostolic Christian Harvest Call. “It really helps just to be able to know who your neighbors are and be more involved in figuring out what your local community is doing.”
JIMAX’s Tireless Project has worked to engage the community and address illegal dumping while providing an environmentally conscious means of disposal. The company donates equipment and provides planning and support, with employees donating their time.
“We don’t do this all for the awards, of course,” said Martis. “But it’s nice to be appreciated.”
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