ESCANABA - Those truly dedicated to philanthropy are known for their desire to avoid the spotlight, and so is the case for Escanaba resident Cheri Severinsen.
Severinsen has been selected as the Daily Press Volunteer of the Month for January.
Severinsen's volunteerism has spanned many years and has included the Escanaba Elks Lodge, Hospice and organizing cancer support groups.
Cheri Severinsen, right, catches up with a local resident whose mother is utilizing the services of the Delta County Cancer Alliance. Through her dedication to the Alliance, Severinsen often comes to know entire families, a perk she enjoys each and every time she volunteers. (Daily Press photo by Ashley Hoholik)
"Anyone else that needs anything for charity work, they call me and I do it," she said. "I'll volunteer for just about anything...whenever someone needs any help, they call me and I do it."
One of her most recent endeavors is within the Delta County Cancer Alliance.
"In 1995, I started here. I volunteered first, and then for the last five years, I've been president of the board of directors. For seven years, I have been running the office here," explained Severinsen. "We have grown so much in that time - from 1995 to now. We have around 2,800 patients on file."
The non-profit alliance provides financial assistance, equipment and support to those battling cancer. Severinsen decided to participate in the alliance following her own sister's battle with breast cancer.
"When my sister got breast cancer at 39, and I was visiting her in Milwaukee, I saw what she was going through, and that's when I started with the cancer alliance," she explained. "I always felt, in my heart, that if I did something here for someone, I was kind of helping her."
Following her formation of a cancer support group, Severinsen moved on to actively volunteer within the office and eventually took the reigns of the Alliance.
A typical day for Severinsen involves opening the local office, setting up for whichever volunteer will be in that day and keeping everything running smoothly. While most of her work should consist of mere oversight, Severinsen continually goes above and beyond by maintaining contact with the patients who need her help.
"If I am here and someone needs something...I take it to them," she said. "There are probably a lot of things that I do, and I guess I never think about it, that are not a part of the job."
Severinsen also finds herself going to the homes of newly-diagnosed cancer patients - those just beginning to cope with the reality of the disease.
"Generally, the majority of things that are happening to them (the cancer patient) is kind of normal, but they get frightened," she said.
Using her background in cancer support groups, Severinsen explains she is usually able to provide a type of comfort that families cannot. In doing this, she points out she is gaining just as much comfort as the patient.
"Once you get involved with families and you see what they go through, and you see, just the little bit that I do, how much it helps - one hug and a big smile...that's all you need," she said.
"You don't need anything else other than that. That's what keeps me going; that's what keeps me interested in it."
The volunteers in the office allow Severinsen to continue her close involvement with the families she has come to know personally throughout the years, and she speaks of their dedication frequently.
"Without the volunteers that I have, we could not run this place, because they do it. They're here, every day, Monday through Friday...I count on them for just about everything," she said. "They make me look good because they do so much."
Now that her husband is semi-retired, Severinsen said she may have to scale back her involvement with the organization, but adds that it will probably be easier said than done.
"I'm probably going to have to start cutting back, but I really won't until I have to because I love coming down here - it's dumb to say, maybe, but I really do enjoy it," she said.
"I enjoy the people and I enjoy helping them. I like it when they give you a smile, even when you've helped them with some little minor thing - that makes me happy. That makes me feel good inside."
For more information on the Delta County Cancer Alliance, visit 419 Ludington St., Escanaba, or call 786-0854.