Louisiana – Irvin Barousse
When Irvin Barousse taught resource students at Archbishop Rummel High School, he volunteered with the service organization Operation Head Start. After retirement, he continued working with approximately 60 male high school students, serving as their mentor, and supporting them to be outstanding volunteers with Operation Head Start and other organizations. Now these students reach out to over 2,000 at-risk individuals in the greater New Orleans area.
Barousse works with the students to volunteer with several hundred pre-kindergarten children at local Head Start centers and to make an impact in improving literacy through read aloud projects and book giveaways. The young men also work with terminally ill children at Angel’s Place, senior citizens with Alzheimer’s disease, and individuals with special needs.
Operation Head Start has a mission statement of “Loving individuals so much that we work together to help them overcome the barriers that violate their dignity.” Barousse works with his young volunteers to expand this mission to the individuals in all the at-risk groups with whom they work. In addition, he devotes his time planning Halloween and Christmas parties each year for the children at Angels’ Place. The events are held on the high school campus and provide worry-free fun, helping the children forget challenging situations during the holiday seasons. As he continues to encourage the volunteers to use their talents to help others in need, his own volunteering not only makes an impact on the lives of at-risk individuals but also on the students he mentors as well.
Pennsylvania - Elizabeth Schmoyer
Elizabeth Schmoyer has made a life centered on giving to youth. For the past 30 plus years, she has volunteered on the Youth Advisory Committee of the Berks County, Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Red Cross where she has served as a board member and chair, and received national recognition. She may be best known in the county as Scrubby Bear. Scrubby Bear comes into elementary school classrooms to awe the students as a larger-than-life character, and for over 25 years she has provided instruction to preschool and kindergarten youth on how to avoid illness by correct washing of hands. In order to expand the program in the surrounding community, Scrubby Bear was cloned with more bear costumes for additional volunteers.
Schmoyer has been a babysitter’s trainer for over 20 years teaching both boys and girls life saving skills that have made a difference in many lives. In these times of economic hardship, having the expertise as a certified babysitter has increased their chances for employment. In fact, the Scrubby Bear and babysitting courses have become so popular that Schmoyer, in conjunction with the Red Cross, has encouraged and trained others to provide additional instruction to youth in the surrounding area. First-graders struggling with reading are able to focus and relax in their school setting with the help of Finnegan McCuel, a certified therapy dog, and volunteer Schmoyer. And during the December holiday season, she can be found wrapping gifts for the children of active duty members at the U.S. Army National Guard facility at Fort Indiantown Gap.
As lead of the Berks County Chapter of the American Red Cross Youth Services Committee for at least 20 years, she helped organize the Youth Awareness Day program for 9th to 12th-graders. Presenters share pertinent information that students can use to gain first employment. She is also the chair of her church’s St. Vincent DePaul group and serves as the key coordinator for meals at food shelters and with Berks Women in Crisis feeding. She also volunteers on the Berks County Juvenile Probation Agency and provides alternatives to adjudicated youth. The volunteer services she has provided over the past 30 years have significantly touched countless numbers of Berks County’s 127,000 residents, and their lives are richer for the life she has chosen to live.