Beloit's John Wong helps kids around the world and close to home
Profession: Senior financial adviser for M&I Financial Advisors
Family: Wife Becky; children Kana, 8, and Kai, 5.
Role model or person who influenced you: "There are many people that I know and respect. I try to take the best of everybody I meet and use that. There's really good in everybody."
Hobby: Traveling, teaching, volunteering.
Volunteer interests: Working with the "16:49" group to provide temporary housing for homeless students. Working with Beloit Rotary.
BELOIT Children here. Children thousands of miles away. Children who have never been in need helping those who have always gone without.
All of those kids have one point of connection: John Wong.
Wong, a financial adviser at M&I Bank, was instrumental in establishing Kids Against Hunger-Rock County Rotary.
Kid Against Hunger is a national organization that sends prepackaged meals to hungry families in the United States and developing countries. The organization provides the ingredients and packaging materials. Local "satellites" of the national organization put meals together and raise money.
Wong and others wanted to set up Wisconsin's first satellite. They knew the job was too big for just one Rotary Club. As a result, the local satellite is supported by four active clubs: the Edgerton, Beloit and Janesville Morning Rotary clubs and the Janesville Noon Rotary Club.
"The initial appeal was that it was a hands-on project that would make and impact on other people's lives," Wong said.
Gary Bersell, executive director of Kandu Industries in Janesville, helped set up packaging lines at his facility.
Wong and others recruited school groups and other volunteer organizations to do the packaging.
Last fall, more that 600 volunteers—most of them students—packaged enough food at Beloit Memorial High School to fill a 40-foot shipping container.
"We had 50 lines of people working," Wong said. "Those kids came to school when they didn't have to be there."
In December, the organization packaged its 1 millionth meal. Many of Wong's fellow Rotarians credit him with helping to get it done.
"John's leadership has definitely been a big part of it," said Jon Wangerin, M&I vice president. "He's very passionate about everything in his life. He's very driven. He's very honest."
As for Wong, he says he's achieved a certain level of self-fulfillment through his family, his children and his work. Now it's time to give back.
"I'm blessed in so many ways," Wong said. "I want to take my skills and help other people."
Wong said he's trying to cut back on his volunteer work because he wants to spend more time with his family.
At the same time, he and his wife, Becky, are training for a special kind of foster care. Inspired by the documentary "16:49," about homeless students in the Beloit School District, the Wongs hope to provide short-term foster homes for such children.
Wong also is working on a project with his church, Sun Valley Presbyterian, to provide early-release day activities for children from Converse Elementary School.