Volunteer Center of Greater Milwaukee
Volunteer Of the Month

Sandy LaFave

“It’s amazing how many people have a personal story to share about Alzheimer’s.”

By - Mar 25th, 2014 02:23 pm
Sandy LaFave.

Sandy LaFave. Photo courtesy of the Volunteer Center of Greater Milwaukee.

I volunteer because I want to see an end to Alzheimer’s disease so no child or grandchild will have to see a look of confusion and loss in their parent or grandparent’s eyes as they are overtaken by this horrible disease. Volunteering has always been important to me. I consider it a privilege. There is true meaning in helping others and supporting organizations that do good work.

Describe the organization where you volunteer.   

I volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association – Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter, which serves an 11-county region, with an estimated 50,000 people affected by Alzheimer’s disease. The group’s mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. They run support groups, education and early stage programs, host a lending library, and do fundraising to support the services and fund research to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. We are fortunate to have them in Milwaukee.

What do you do as a volunteer? 

I’ve served on the Walk to End Alzheimer’s steering committee for several years, doing a variety of things. I’ve been the Walk chairperson for the past three years and I’m looking forward to serving in that role for the 2014 Walk on October 4, at Mount Mary University. I’m also a captain for a large company team that was the top team in the nation last year. I also volunteer for another large Alzheimer’s fundraising event, the Mardi Gras Gala, held on Fat Tuesday each year at the Milwaukee Art Museum. I began volunteering with the organization in 2007.

What’s surprised you the most about volunteering?  

I’m always surprised at how much fun and how rewarding volunteering is. There’s just something about learning that you can help accomplish great things with a bunch of people who share the same passion and vision.

When you think about your paid jobs, how is a volunteering different?

To me, it’s not all that different. I approach volunteering with the same sense of commitment as my paid job. Pitching in and helping out with whatever is needed is the key.

What new things have you learned through volunteering? 

I’ve learned that Alzheimer’s disease impacts so many people and it devastates many families. It’s amazing how many people have a personal story to share once they find out that I volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association. That individuals with early onset Alzheimer’s get the disease in their 30s and 40s at the peak of their lives is something I didn’t know before volunteering.

Has it changed your view of the world in any way? 

I’ve been lucky to hear firsthand about all of the research being done to end Alzheimer’s. It’s truly a global initiative among the scientific community. We hear so much about the world being divided in so many ways, and it’s great to know that’s not always the case.

Has it changed your view of this community in any way? 

As a Milwaukee native, I’ve always loved the “small town” and “get it done” feel. People are generous when it comes to important causes, so it’s just a reinforcement of what I’ve always believed about our great city.

Has volunteering had benefits for you? 

Volunteering gives me a sense of accomplishment and of belonging to a movement that is so important. The Alzheimer’s Association staff makes volunteers feel special and needed. I’ve also learned so much about organizing large events and have gotten to know some wonderful people.

What are you proudest of accomplishing in your work as a volunteer? 

It was a banner year for the Milwaukee Walk to End Alzheimer’s last year and, to play a small role in that success made me very proud. To be part of the generation that stops Alzheimer’s in its tracks would be the ultimate accomplishment.

Would you recommend volunteering to others? 

Definitely. It feels good to do something to help out. You will meet others, perhaps find out you have skills you didn’t know you had, and hopefully have great fun doing it.

How would you suggest someone begin if they want to volunteer? 

Find an organization or cause you are passionate about, then look for something within it where you can use your skills, and then go for it. You don’t need to do something big; anything you can do will benefit the cause.

To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association, go to http://www.alz.org/sewi/ To find additional volunteer opportunities in our community, go to www.volunteermilwaukee.org, a Service of the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee.

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