Janesville man recognized for commitment to volunteer work
JANESVILLE Eric Salzwedel organized Friday’s blood drive at the Janesville American Red Cross office.
He also was the event greeter and donated blood for the first time.
After the blood drive, he drove across town so he could ring bells for the Salvation Army.
The 24-year-old Salzwedel spends almost as much time volunteering as he does working as district manager for Vector Marketing, the direct sales division of Cutco Cutlery.
Because of that the Janesville man received the Marty Domitrovich Triple Crown of Service Award during Cutco’s recent annual strategic leadership conference in Dallas.
The national recognition, given in memory of one of the company’s most esteemed leaders, is presented each year to the person or people within the organization who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to improving the world around them through their service-oriented contributions to their communities, wrote Diana Laverdure, vice president of Reeves Laverdure Public Relations.
“I knew a lot of Vector/Cutco people who had contributed in bigger ways. It was something I definitely wasn’t expecting. But it was a complete honor,” Salzwedel said.
Salzwedel began volunteering as a grade school student when he participated in Jump Rope for Heart.
“Initially, it was to get the prizes,” he said.
But volunteering became a more serious endeavor after high school when he volunteered at a muscular dystrophy camp.
“That really changed my perspective on a lot of things,” he said.
As a sophomore in college, Salzwedel started the Oshkosh MDA Bowl-A-Thon. The event has raised more than $20,000 since 2008.
“2013 will be the sixth year,” said Salzwedel, vice president of the Executive Committee of MDA for Southwest Wisconsin.
People who have it worse than Salzwedel are the ones who inspire him most.
“I want the world to be a better place.,” he said. “Volunteering is my passion.”
Salzwedel was a Big Brother for Big Brothers/Big Sisters; he co-founded Project Volunteer with a mission of motivating and inspiring youth and adults to volunteer in the community; he coordinated the Wisconsin Division fund raiser for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. He also conducts annual clothing drives and food drives for the Salvation Army, raises money for Special Olympics in Wisconsin through a polar plunge and reaches out to those in need, including painting the house of a woman who broke her back and bought gifts for a family whose house burned down before Christmas.
Salzwedel doesn’t have any method of selecting charities he chooses to help.
“It depends on my schedule and if someone needs my help, I’m willing to go,” he said.
Salzwedel admits if he could volunteer as a career, he would.
“But it doesn’t pay too well,” he said.
Proud parents drove Salzwedel to do more volunteering.
“There’s so much opportunity to make a difference in the community and so many places that need help. If I can add value to someone’s life, that’s what I love to do,” he said.
That’s why Salzwedel just became an American Red Cross Disaster Action Team volunteer.
“I’d love to be able to travel and wanted to help with (victims of) Hurricane Sandy, but I couldn’t be away from work for two weeks,” he said.
Through Project Volunteer, Salzwedel also will be leading a group of people for a week-long trip to Haiti, where they will help finish building a medical clinic.
There are four ways to give—money, time, skills and items, Salzwedel said.
“I give all four ways,” he said.
But Salzwedel said he does enjoy the rewarding feeling of volunteering from those who are grateful for what he does.
“I never have a bad day. My bad days are other people’s good days. It’s always keeping everything in perspective,” he said.
For Salzwedel, it’s not a question of if, but when he’s going to volunteer and make a difference in someone’s life.
“I’m just paying it forward,” he said.