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Citizen Dane: Ripples of relief

Our inaugural Citizen Dane presentation gives a shout out to four selfless citizens.

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From the pages of In Business magazine.

A community’s heroes don’t often fly under the radar, for they usually are prominent enough to make positive headlines. So, we decided to launch a program to honor Dane County’s unsung givers and in the process, sing their praises.

We call it Citizen Dane, and with apologies to Wisconsin and Hollywood icon Orson Welles, who starred in the classic movie with a similar sounding name, we think they offer blockbuster examples of what unsung heroes can do.

Our first class of Citizen Dane honorees, and the nonprofit organizations they serve, are:

  • Jesi Hartman, Wisconsin Academy of Graduate Service Dogs;
  • Holly Hill-Putnam, Dane County Humane Society;
  • Cory Recknor, American Cancer Society; and
  • Janet Bybee, Middleton Outreach Ministry.

As you will come to know, their causes are their passions, and they all have a special message for people who are interested in devoting themselves to a cause but have yet to fully commit: The rewards are many — thanks to the ripples of relief you provide.

Jesi Hartman

Wagging the dog

Jesi Hartman’s husband Justin had a concern about her interest in becoming a volunteer service dog trainer for WAGS (Wisconsin Academy of Graduate Service Dogs). He didn’t think she could, after spending about 18 months with a service dog, just let go of the animal, but when she saw how much the trained service dogs mean to people with disabilities, it was easier to start the process over again.

WAGS volunteers have trained service dogs to serve people with disabilities for more than 30 years, and Hartman, an account executive with WKOW in Madison, is on her tenth canine trainee. For humans who work with the dogs and prepare them to serve the disabled, WAGS has a training director who works with individual trainers and trainers as a group to keep things on track. The dogs will accompany trainers, and the disabled people they eventually serve, just about anywhere, including restaurants and grocery stores.

The training commitment is such that Hartman spends more time with the dogs than any human, but she’s still able to let go when the time comes. “They are really with me more than anyone else, and you definitely bond with them. There is just no way around that,” she explains. “You fall in love and you create a bond that’s so strong that it’s very difficult to say goodbye, but when I see them being paired with somebody else, and when I see the positive impact that they have on somebody’s life, it’s a life-changing thing.”

Holly Hill-Putnam

Soaring, spirited pursuit

Holly Hill-Putnam might have hit the volunteerism nail on the head by posing the following question. “How many pursuits can make your spirit soar?”

For Hill-Putnam, the answer has been volunteering at the Dane County Humane Society, where she has spent more than 14,000 hours, many of them in the Animal Medical Services area helping animals to recover from spay and neuter surgery. Hill-Putnam got started with the Humane Society in 2012 when she had to leave her job as a restaurant manager to care for parents who both had Alzheimers. While providing care for them, she needed a stress-reliever — a way to stay in contact with people (and animals) and not get isolated.

Supportive husband Rollie stepped up to the plate and helped so that Holly could spend a few hours a week at the humane society. Hill-Putnam has tried on a lot of different hats with the organization, but perhaps her most significant impact has been with the Wildlife Focus Group, where she’s part of a team that cares for sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife with the goal of releasing them back to their home environment.

“It’s a heartwarming feeling to be recognized for doing something I love,” she states. “It’s a lot of hours but they just fly by. The feeling you get helping orphaned and injured animals at the Wildlife Center or helping a little puppy or kitten recover from surgery is worth every second invested. I go home every day and truly feel like I did something worthwhile.”

(Continued)

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