When it comes to volunteering, Barbra Cisler can't walk away
People Who Matter
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Family: Husband, Terry Cisler, a retired oral surgeon; two children, Todd Cisler, 27, Janesville, and Laura Cisler, 24, Milwaukee.
Favorite hobby: Downhill skiing
Favorite book: "Loving Frank" by Nancy Horan, about Frank Lloyd Wright.
Favorite music: Classical
Three words that best describe you: Happy team player
Biggest influence: Her 94-year-old mother, Madeline Ahlschwede, who is a retired elementary school teacher and reading specialist.
Education: Bachelor's degree in elementary education and master's degree in educational psychology from the University of Nebraska
Past work experience: Assistant dean of women, assistant director of housing and coordinator of community activities at Beloit College, residence director at University of Nebraska, and an insurance underwriter.
Interesting tidbit: Played in an accordion band and earned money teaching accordion lessons during high school and college. She still has her childhood accordion, which led to her love of classical music and the piano.
Past volunteerism: Dental Auxiliary, Rock County Dental Alliance, YWCA, Monroe Organization of Parents and Teachers, "See the Arts" presenter at Monroe Elementary School, Marshall Parent Teachers Association, Girl Scout leader and Girl Scout coordinator at Monroe Elementary School, Janesville Symphony Guild, Sunday school teacher, education committee and foundation board at Cargill United Methodist Church.
Current volunteerism: Greeter at Cargill United Methodist Church, PEO Sisterhood philanthropic and educational organization, CROP Walk in Janesville, Bower City Garden Club and Bower City Investment Club.
JANESVILLE Barbara Cisler finds joy in working with people and doing things for others.
That's why the Janesville woman has devoted her life to volunteerism since becoming involved with the Mortar Board American national honor society in college.
"I realized I enjoyed organizing and seeing things happen," she said.
Many local residents and others abroad have benefited from her generosity, team projects and leadership.
"She is a dream come true volunteer because she's highly organized, gracious, reliable and thorough. She's just a natural leader," said Milly Babcock, who worked closely with Cisler when the two were top officers of the Bower City Garden Club.
"She has given to our community continuously for many years without any expectations except to see those in need benefit from her effort," Babcock added.
Sue McCrone, ECHO client advocate, knows that's true.
Cisler has coordinated the local CROP Walk since 2001. The walk has raised $437,490 since then, and 25 percent of that—or $109,372—was donated to ECHO, a local faith-sponsored charity that helps people overcome hunger and poverty, she said.
"The dollars helped ECHO persevere these past years with the (struggling) economy," McCrone said.
Janesville's CROP Walk is the third-largest money-raising walk in Wisconsin for Church World Service behind those in Milwaukee and Madison, thanks to Cisler's organizational efforts.
Yet Cisler attributes the success to the many dedicated volunteers from Janesville churches and organizations.
"I like working as part of a team," she said.
McCrone said Cisler is the perfect person to chair the walk because she's a strong advocate of helping low-income people locally.
"She sees the needs and is very compassionate about that and helping others," McCrone said.
Being involved with the CROP Walk and ECHO has opened Cisler's eyes and given her the opportunity to see how the money raised can change lives for the better.
"It's shaped what I've done," she said.
McCrone also described Cisler as patient, giving, supportive, positive and respectful.
Cisler learned her strong work ethic and to appreciate people and things while growing up on a farm near Lincoln, Neb.
She and her husband, Terry, have traveled to many places in the world, and they dream of visiting all seven continents.
"We've been to North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. So we're getting close," she said.
During their travels, the couple have taken dental and educational supplies to orphanages and schools in places such as Kenya and Vietnam.
"It's interesting to see different cultures and learn about people and their lives," Cisler said.
Cisler gets the most joy from watching children's eyes light up when they receive supplies.
"You get that personal aspect," she said. "We sometimes take for granted what we have, but these people don't have these resources.
"If we can help, we'll certainly try."
That's at the core of Cisler's volunteerism.
"I'm trying to make Janesville a better place to live and trying to help people by the things I do. I like to see results and things happen."