SOMO thanks, honors its volunteers

Stephanie Roberts, of Humansville, Mo. attends the luncheon for volunteers in Springfield April 12.

Stephanie Roberts, of Humansville, Mo. attends the luncheon for volunteers in Springfield April 12.

The Southern Missouri Region of the Red Cross recognized some amazing people during a sometimes moving event Saturday, April 12 as it recognized its volunteers’ donated time and presented a rarely given honor.

Toni Adams, of Rogersville, received the “Clara Barton Honor Award for Meritorious Leadership” during the event at the Ramada Oasis in Springfield. Adams is retiring after 25 years of volunteer work with the American Red Cross. The award recognizes “volunteer dedication for years in a leadership position and guidance to others on a daily basis,” said Chris Harmon, Regional Disaster Program Officer for the Southern Missouri 40-county service area.

Thomas Zeller, of Joplin, was the top earner of Mission Points, a new program in 2013 to recognize the efforts of Red Cross volunteers.

Busy in the Joplin office Zeller is a Des Moines, Iowa native. He graduated with a bachelor of arts in physical education and a minor in biology from a small northwest Iowa college and later earned a masters in sports medicine. In 1983, he moved to Missouri to help his wife’s family with their farm. During this time Zeller began working for a large hotel chain in Osage Beach where he started his involvement with the Red Cross as a health and safety instructor. Over the next decade Thomas continued his work with the hotel and the Red Cross, briefly relocating to Memphis, Tenn. and then later moving back to Missouri where he became involved with the Joplin Red Cross office.

Zeller now spends most days in the Joplin office where he primarily assists with IT support, casework, and the DAT team. Zeller says he began increasing his hours as a volunteer in 2010 after having a debilitating surgery. Increasing his involvement gave his brain an outlet to stay engaged and helped with his mental recovery. During the last few years of his work with the Red Cross, Zeller has instructed several classes, including DAT, DSL, Disaster Assessment, and he assists with Shelter and ERV classes.

Concerning his ongoing volunteer work with the Red Cross he said, “Providing someone with a blanket and some money to buy necessities after they have lost their home in a fire, and hearing them say, ‘Thank you’ is gratifying.” Teaching others to be prepared and how to cope with disaster gives Zeller a feeling of accomplishment and will keep him involved for years to come.

Former emergency official on service

The luncheon was attended by nearly 150 volunteers and staff of the American Red Cross at the Ramada Oasis in Springfield. Ryan Nicholls, the former Springfield-Greene County Emergency Management Director, spoke on the Red Cross volunteers’ commitment of time and service.

Thomas Zeller, from Joplin with 108 mission points, gets an award from Debi Meeds Regional CEO in Southern Missouri.

Thomas Zeller, 108 mission points, with Debi Meeds Regional CEO in Southern Missouri.

“We give to what we love,” Nicholls said in describing the common denominator among volunteers. Red Cross volunteers aren’t those who call and offer to help, they are the people who “just show up” to help, he said.

After military personnel and mothers, “You are the top brigade of some top folks,” Nicholls told the volunteers. “I am indebted” to volunteers, he said, in describing to other government officials the need to maintain the partnership with Red Cross.

Kristopher “Luke” Bolz, Regional Executive Officer Volunteer Services, noted that the Southern Missouri area that covers 40 counties for Red Cross was number one in volunteer community engagement in its division that includes nine states.

In addition to honoring Zeller and Adams, E. Suzi Roe, of Springfield, was recognized for her work with the Red Cross since 1966 and Carol A. Miller, of Joplin, for her 36 years of service.

Top in Mission Points

The complete list of Mission Points awardees (each point represents 10 hours of service or training):

Thomas Zeller (Joplin) – 108 points

Mindy Boggs (Springfield) – 101

Mary Switzer (Lebanon) – 101

Megan Wells (Springfield) – 83

Ralph Wise (Springfield) – 64

Sherryl Brannan (West Plains) – 61

Robert Cooper (Springfield) – 61

Cindy Sullivan (West Plains) – 57

Charles Greeno (Lebanon) – 55

Carol Miller (Lebanon) – 55


Story by: Steph Burns & Don Underwood, Red Cross Communication Volunteer

Photos by: Nigel Holderby, Red Cross


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