By Cydney Anderson, American Red Cross Volunteer
On June 3, 1980, tornados tore through Grand Island, Nebraska. The next day, two people were waiting in line for beans and wieners at the Salvation Army food truck. Both young adults were affected by this huge devastation. Shari and Leonard Guzinski remember that day; it was the day they first met after their hometown had been ripped apart during a natural disaster.
Jump to 10 years later, in 1990, and the couple found themselves together again, but this time in holy matrimony. Now, 30 years later, the Guzinskis’ are still in Grand Island and use the horrific day they experienced to help other people having dreadful days of their own.
Leonard and Shari knew they needed to help other people, and in recent years, they have started putting forth the effort of doing just that. Leonard attended a Red Cross presentation and a Community Response Team Emergency (C.E.R.T) meeting, and Shari assisted at the Golden Tower Fire in 2015. Shari was not a part of the American Red Cross at the time, but after assisting over 100 people and helping with several agencies for two days she stated, “that was a walk in the park, where do I sign,” and that is how she became a part of the organization.
After these experiences, the couple was hooked on helping others and being wherever they were needed when a crisis occurred nearby.
Leonard has been volunteering for around seven years and Shari has been a volunteer for around five, and between the two of them, they have been involved with C.E.R.T for nine years. Since they started, they both have volunteered at around 100 emergency responses in over 30 towns in the Central Nebraska area, over 20 in Grand Island alone. These emergency responses range from fires to floods and various other volunteer-needed catastrophes.
Within the American Red Cross, the Guzinskis are a part of Disaster Action Team and drive the Emergency Response Vehicles. They have also given speeches and present to different groups they are a part of and to people who are interested in the different areas of the Red Cross.
When asked why they keep volunteering they stated, “we have seen many disasters and helped so many people in their time of need. It’s rewarding, but also sad.”
Aside from helping volunteer within the area, Leonard and Shari advocate to various groups of people on the importance of volunteering within the communities. The couple has given speeches at Red Cross recruiting meetings, the United Way, local tour agencies, free smoke alarm installations and other events.
Advice Leonard and Shari want to give anyone who is wanting to volunteer within their communities is, “If you choose the Red Cross, take advantage of the training they provide. We chose disaster response, but there are many other fields to choose from. You will be supported by other Red Cross members and most of the time work in teams of two or more. It is an amazing organization and we have loved the work we have done with them thus far. Also, research other volunteer organizations in your area, you might find one closer than you think!”
Leonard and Shari live in Grand Island, in a house well over 100 years old, with their cat, dog and fish pond. When not volunteering, they love doing day trips to many different destinations and they collect antiques.