Volunteer Spotlight

Donna R. Wenzel

I began volunteering for the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team while attending the Nursing program through Des Moines Technical High School. I assisted people in the Des Moines and surrounding areas, by searching for people, administering first aid and rescuing people who were stranded because of flooding and tornadoes. Sometimes this meant getting a call in the middle of the night, sometimes we were sent by boat into homes filled with water.

As a young mother, I took classes to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for the Court System. I would follow children who were victims of neglect or abuse, and check in with them to see that they were in a safe and secure environment, and report back to the courts. I was called to testify on the children’s behalf.

My children and I volunteered for rebuilding Des Moines, remodeling and repairing homes. I helped build a few new homes for Habitat for Humanity, in underserved areas of Des Moines.

After my children were grown and I retired. I began researching my genealogy, and found out that I am a descendent of Jamestown, The Mayflower, and a few Revolutionary War patriots. This prompted me to submit my application to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and I was verified April 5, 2022. I am a member of the Jean Marie Cardinell Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

As part of my Service to America, I began Volunteering at the Gold Star Military Museum. I took a class to be a Museum Guide, and learned about the history of the various wars, for which I am always learning. In addition to being a guide, I’ve entered several years’ worth of donations into spreadsheets for the museum, helped the curator with projects, and have worked at various events honoring soldiers.

I am the Chapter Chairman of the Historic Preservation Committee. As the chairman, I have initiated a few projects, to help preserve history. I have gathered people and led events to archive records at the Iowa Genealogical Society. I belong to the Madison County Genealogic Society. I walk and inventory cemeteries, in that county. Researched archives and wrote short biographies for World War I Veterans buried in Madison Co, as a result, there will be 700 plus veteran bios, placed in the Iowa Genealogy Website. (iagenweb.org)

Our Chapter has adopted a block at Glendale Cemetery and I have scheduled a class for my chapter and guests to learn the proper way to clean and repair headstones to preserve them.

I also serve as the Registrar for my Chapter, this involves doing the genealogy necessary to prove that a woman is eligible by direct descent, to become a Daughter of the American Revolution. I have taken genealogy courses through the DAR, to help with this position. I promote the DAR to potential Members, and encourage them to apply.

As general member of the DAR, I attend various events, and help out when needed. Our Chapter decorated the Jordan House Parlor for Christmas in vintage decor, and won 1st prize. This is an event that our chapter has done for a few years. I’ve honored Vietnam Veterans and pinned them with Anniversary pins at the Iowa State Capital, in their homes, at other Military gatherings, I have delivered commemorative books to Vietnam Veteran’s homes. I welcome new citizens at naturalization ceremonies. I will be reading the names of fallen Vietnam Veterans at the 40-year commemoration of the wall at the Iowa State Capital.

CSM (Ret) Louis Wolfgram

Louis (Louie) has been a volunteer at the museum for almost 12 years. Louie (I still call him Command Sergeant Major) became a volunteer in early 2012 after retiring from the Iowa Army National Guard for the second time. I met Louie when he came out of retirement to serve as the State Quartermaster (my boss) while then Colonel Ben Corell (now Major General Corell) was deployed to Afghanistan. I don’t know how I would have survived that first year without Louie. Louie connected me with so many National Guard members that assisted me after his second retirement. I was lost trying to learn all the military acronyms (that I am still learning) and supported me with all my ideas to grow the museum and remodel the exhibit gallery.

When CSM (Louie) retired the second time I thought I would just see him at alumni events but his desire to continue to serve led him back to the museum to volunteer. As a volunteer, Louie assists with front desk duties by greeting visitors, helping with tours and assisting at major events like Memorial Day. In addition, he has been part of the museum’s project to preserve World War I induction and enlistment cards into our digital system. When completed, Louie will start scanning, entering and preserving some of the 1930s Iowa National Guard Records.

Louis is a true Command Sergeant Major, assessing what needs to be done and helping out whenever needed.

Thank you, CSM, for all you do for the Gold Star Museum!

Laverne Oertli

Laverne has been a volunteer at the museum for 13 years. Laverne and her late husband Joe, became involved with the museum because their son was serving with the Iowa National Guard and they wanted to be close to him during his time of service and the museum was the perfect fit for them.

When Laverne is not volunteering at the museum, she is enjoying her grandchildren, doing needlework and belongs to a couple book clubs. Laverne is also volunteering at the Veterans Hospital operating the courtesy cart and delivering mailing. Laverne is also a member of the Blue Star Mothers of Central Iowa.

Laverne is a bright spot in our day at the museum. She always comes in with a big smile and willingness to help and do whatever is needed. From working in the giftshop organizing and folding items dusting and vacuuming and greeting visitors.

Thank you, Laverne, for all you do for the Gold Star Museum!