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Red Cross Hometown Hero: Bank vice president has a heart for kids

March 12, 2015 Updated: March 12, 2015 at 9:23 pm
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photo - Wayne Bland. Courtesy photo
Wayne Bland. Courtesy photo 

Wayne Bland said he learned the importance of volunteering after growing up in Pawnee, Okla., a community often hit by natural disasters such as fires and tornadoes.

It was there that he and his sister were taken "by the hand" to different volunteer opportunities at a young age, he said.

"It was kind of the expectation in the family," Bland said. "It literally took a village with people helping each other to get by."

Bland is this year's Red Cross Hometown Heroes Community Service Hero Award winner.

The 61-year-old vice president of Kirkpatrick Bank volunteers with CASA, the Rotary Club, the Center for Nonprofit Excellence and Urban Peak. He especially has a "tender heart" for kids, he said, which has inspired him to work with youth in the community.

"I think every kid deserves a level playing field and unfortunately they don't have that," he said. "And anything we can do to level that playing field makes a big difference."

In his volunteer role at Urban Peak, an organization that works with youth between 15 and 20 years old who are dealing with poverty and homelessness, Bland said he values interacting with the youth.

For eight years, Bland and his wife Pam have cooked meals for the youth there and organize an "etiquette dinner" to help teach them customary social skills and manners for a formal dinner. Bland also serves on the organization's board of directors.

Jasper Sandoval, who has been at the shelter for about five months, said the way Bland talks to him makes Sandoval believe that Bland "really cares." In addition to being personable and making a "delicious egg casserole," Bland helped the 20-year-old get an interview with a potential employer.

"It was kind of surprising that he would take me out of the bunch, but it shows how much he cares about us, the clients, and the whole process," he said. "He's a great man. The effort he puts into Urban Peak is just phenomenal."

Bland's work with young people extends to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, a group that makes up an estimated 25-40 percent of the homeless youth population, said Urban Peak Executive Director Shawna Kemppainen.

Lynn and Norm Peterson, who nominated Bland for the award, said he immediately popped into their minds as someone worthy of recognition for community service. The Petersons have known Bland since he started working for Norm Peterson at a mortgage company in 1999.

"He's been a participant in trying to help people ever since he's come to town," Norm Peterson said.

The fact that Bland was selected, Lynn Peterson said, was a "no-brainer."

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Contact Stephen Hobbs: 636-0275

Twitter @bystephenhobbs

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