Janesville63.3°

Volunteer reaches out for First Call

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
January 20, 2008
— No wonder Rob Wilkinson is called “volunteer extraordinaire.”

He is active in 50 different organizations that he devoted 3,000 hours to in 2007. That’s up from 2,900 hours in 2006 and 2,600 hours in 2005.


Even though some of these groups don’t meet regularly and he connects with others through e-mail, Wilkinson said his involvement is “to make a difference.”


He first volunteered when he represented the local police association at LaborFest when it was restarted in the 1990s. But his volunteerism has evolved extensively from there.


Just ask Richard Johnson, president of the Rock County AARP Chapter, where Wilkinson is a member and past president.


“He’s a liaison between our local chapter and the state (AARP) and keeps us informed,” Johnson said. “We just know that if there is something going on in the state, Rob will know what it is. He’s so knowledgeable, a very dedicated person and just a pleasure to work with.”


Wilkinson is a member of AARP’s Wisconsin State Advocacy/Coordinating Council, its state chapter Specialist Fraud Fighter program and participates in AARP’s statewide events on numerous levels. He was the first president of the Janesville AARP Chapter.


“AARP is an advocacy group primarily advocating for seniors. But it’s also concerned about all issues affecting all people,” said Wilkinson, who received the 2005 Wisconsin AARP Andrus Award. The award is named after the founder of the national organization for his participation in about every kind of issue on local, state and national levels.


One thing AARP wants its members to do is volunteer, a philosophy Wilkinson lives by. It led him to the Rock County Community Partnership for Older Adults Committee senior advocacy group where he is still a member and past chair and has been involved with other committees. Wilkinson also is a member of the Rock County Council on Aging Advisory Board and a part-time Medicare Part D specialist.


“He’s very committed in his ventures in many different areas, and it compliments us here because of his wealth of knowledge,” said Terri Pass, also a Rock County benefit specialist. “As an active member of our board, he worked diligently on getting the Rock County statesmanship program brought to Rock County seniors.


After joining the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program, Wilkinson became a volunteer at First Call, United Way’s comprehensive information and referral service for health and human service needs in North Rock County and the Stateline Area.


“This was a perfect fit,” Wilkinson said, explaining he tapped into his police experience of working the complaint desk and dispatching.


“I could give people information, talk on the phone and help them. It’s fun. I enjoy it,” he said of his First Call work, where he has been volunteering five days a week since October of 2003.


“I give them information and provide them options whether they need financial or mental help or have food or shelter issues,” Wilkinson said. “It’s assistance to get them back on their trail to self-sufficiency.”


Barb Wien, First Call coordinator, said: “Rob is so knowledgeable about community resources and so good with people, which is why he is perfect for First Call. He volunteers more hours than many people work. Janesville is very lucky to have such a dedicated champion of social justice.”


Rob Wilkinson
Age: 66
Community: Janesville
Occupation: Part-time Medicare Part D Specialist for Rock County, a retired Janesville police officer
Family: Wife, Mary Summerbell; two daughters, Robyn, 26, Roselyn, 22; one son, Ian, 20
Favorite hobby: Volunteering
Favorite singer: Barbara Streisand
Favorite movies: Any featuring John Wayne
Three words that best describe you: Concerned. Responsible. Compassionate

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