He puts charity to work — at work

By | April 15, 2010


Tony Gonzalez (Photo by Tom Kelly | For The Compass)

Gonzalez says his work is all about prevention, preparedness and response. “It has a great deal to do with my faith. Compassion is rooted in my values. It’s gratifying to have the opportunity to do God’s work and I hold on to that belief — firmly but quietly,” he says, “especially when something really big happens.”

The organization provides timely relief to victims of floods, hurricanes and other disasters. Every year there are 70,000 disasters in the United States. Of these, 97 percent are house fires. So when there’s a fire, Red Cross first responders are there.

Cardiac arrest is the number one cause of death among American women and men, and drowning is one of the top two causes of accidental death. So the Red Cross offers certification for certified nursing assistants, trains community members in CPR, and supports water safety and lifeguard training in partnership with organizations such as the YMCA and local community park and recreation departments.

He explains how the Red Cross is the only nonprofit organization that’s congressionally mandated to provide certain services — not only disaster relief services for the general public, but also support services to the nation’s armed forces.

So they support the armed forces and their families when there’s a death or accident — not only financially when needed, but also logistically when military personnel need to be with their families.

Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Tony Gonzalez

Parish: St. Joseph, Appleton

Age: 43

Favorite saint: Anthony

Words to live by: “Integrity is one of several paths. It distinguishes itself from the
others because it is the right path, and the only one upon which you will never get lost.” — M.H. McKee

The Red Cross also offers shopping and errand services for homebound and disabled persons, which gives them independence, peace of mind and friendship.

Like many organizations that serve those in need, the two-pronged economic pressures of greater need and a growing difficulty in generating support continue to challenge the Red Cross. “But when a disaster strikes anywhere around the globe, it is our disaster,” says Gonzalez.

He adds that, by far, financial support is most needed. “There are many well-meaning benefactors who donate other items that have sometimes been lost, spoiled or delayed through channels that do not have the global logistical agility of the Red Cross. We’re prepared. And when roads are closed and hotels are full we have plans in place with area churches such as St. Thomas More and the YMCA for lodging and hygiene, and Thrivent for Lutherans and Kimberly-Clark Corporation for their food service capabilities.”

He describes how the local Red Cross chapter responded to the Haiti earthquake in January with a radio-thon as well as a fund-raising concert at Lawrence University. “The integrity of our delivery system ensures that funds people give will reach their intended recipients,” he says. “Hurricane Katrina, 9/11 and chemical spills are a few such examples. With food, water, clothing, shelter, counseling and financial support, we strive to be ready for anything.”

Previously, Tony worked with Lutheran Social Services serving people with mental illness and developmental disabilities in group homes to gain more exposure to the world to heighten their quality of life.

Through all of this nonprofit experience, Gonzalez has been greatly gratified by what he calls the gift of receiving. “Asking for help is helping others, and I ask many for funding,” he says. “When something really big happens, God is the first one I ask. With each gift I ask for and receive comes the serious responsibility of making sure we are being good stewards of everything we receive, cutting out costs without cutting support to those who need it.”

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