Hannah Schlafer didn’t relax on a beach during two trips to Mexico. Instead, she spent her one-week trips there helping to build new homes in Juarez.
“I helped build two houses,” the Altoona High School junior said. “We were pretty active in the community and in the orphanage. I got to know the kids we helped. It was so rewarding. It was such a different culture and way of life.”
Schlafer, 17, is being honored by the American Red Cross of Wisconsin as the Youth Good Samaritan winner for her work. A “Heroes Breakfast” ceremony will be Wednesday at The Florian Gardens.
Schlafer said she went on the mission trips to Juarez through her church, Peace Lutheran Church of Eau Claire, and the program Casas Por Cristo, in 2014 and again in 2016.
“We went down there and met the family,” she recalled. “We started with the wood frame and poured the concrete in. It’s a lot of hammering and painting. It was cool to help build the house, and build it with the family.”
Schlafer said she didn’t expect the house to come together so quickly, to the point it was nearly finished after just a week.
“It’s absolutely crazy,” she said. “We started early in the morning, took a siesta, and went back in the afternoon. To help build them a house was just amazing to give back.”
She enjoyed the experience so much her first time, she went back two years later.
Schlafer spoke about her experience in February to the Eau Claire Noon Rotary Club, and she wound up being nominated for the award.
“I absolutely loved my experience,” she said. “I’m being recognized by people who have all done amazing things.
Schlafer, who runs track and played tennis, is heading to UW-Madison in the fall.
Also being honored Wednesday is Ann Dohm, a 56-year-old dental hygienist who donated one of her kidneys to one of her clients, Tim Buckley.
“I had cleaned his teeth for 19 years,” Dohm said.
During normal chit-chat during a cleaning in May 2017, Buckley told her he was being placed on an organ transplant waiting list because of an incurable kidney disease. As they continued to talk, they realized they shared the same blood type, and Dohm began considering offering one of her healthy kidneys.
“I said to him, ‘You’ve got to see your grand-babies,’” she said. “I contacted (health officials of my desire to donate a kidney) one night when I couldn’t sleep.”
It turned out Dohm was a match, so the surgery wound up happening on Jan. 24, 2018.
Dohm is quick to say she has absolutely no regrets about giving him this gift.
“I’d do it again, if I could,” she said with a laugh. “It was more rewarding for me than I imagined; I still get emotional.”
Dohm fought back tears as she described getting thank-you letters from Buckley’s two sons on the anniversary of the surgery. The sons have the same potential for the kidney disease as their dad, so they weren’t good candidates for donating a kidney, she explained.
The letters said “my dad’s whole last year would have been different without you,” she said. “It hits me more now that I know him more. They got their dad back.”
Dohm said her family and work were supportive, and now the Buckleys have become family friends they see often.
Like Schlafer, Dohm was humbled by being honored with the Good Samaritan award.
“I was a little shocked by it,” she said. “Being a Good Samaritan, I was just doing what I do. I’m honored, I’m flattered. It is just overwhelming.”
Prior to that office visit by Buckley, Dohm said she had never considered donating an organ.
“I never thought I’d be an advocate for kidney disease, but here I am,” she said.
Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald will be honored as a Hero of a Lifetime, both for his work in getting the word out after Jayme Closs’s abduction and her return home, but also his efforts after a devastating tornado struck Chetek.
“I’m very honored to be chosen for this,” Fitzgerald said Monday. “You can’t be a good leader without a good team behind me. I have 78 good people working with me.”
At least one city resident is concerned about the recommended addition of three roundabouts when a mile of State Street is reconstructed this year.
Statewide statistics show roundabouts reduce the number of serious accidents but increase the total number of crashes because they are confusing, Maryjo Cohen said during Monday night’s Eau Claire City Council meeting.
“The last thing we want is more crashes,” she said.
Cohen also opposes the recommendation to go from two lanes to one lane northbound going down the hill on State Street.
Heavy traffic volume makes sense to maintain two lanes down the hill, she said.
“Let’s keep that extra lane open and save some lives,” Cohen said.
About 50 city residents attended Monday’s council meeting to provide input on the State Street project, which stretches from the UW-Eau Claire campus to the southern city limits.
The project as proposed by city staff would replace existing stop-sign controlled intersections at Hamilton and MacArthur avenues and Lexington Boulevard with roundabouts.
Roundabouts would create more efficient travel flow, city engineer David Solberg told council members Monday.
There’s an average 27-second wait at State Street and Hamilton Avenue during peak travel times in the morning and evening, he said.
“There’s efficiency to be had at Hamilton Avenue,” Solberg said.
The worst delays are for people wanting to make left turns from MacArthur Avenue onto State Street during peak periods. The wait time now can range from three to five minutes. That would drop to five to ten seconds with a roundabout, Solberg said.
The State Street project was identified as a priority because of its present condition, especially on the south end of the project area, Solberg said.
“Utilities are at the age where they should be replaced,” he said.
Since last fall, Solberg said, more than 20 open houses and neighborhood association meetings have been held to get input on the project.
The most common concerns were speed of vehicles going down the hill, pedestrian safety, better accommodations for bicyclists and a good vehicle flow, he said.
“They didn’t want State Street to become a bottleneck,” he said.
The roundabout at Lexington Boulevard would be the only one to have multiple lanes, Solberg said.
To improve pedestrian safety at the Roosevelt Avenue intersection, which is close to the UW-Eau Claire campus, Solberg is recommending that a concrete island be built between traffic lanes on the intersection’s north side.
This would allow pedestrians to cross one lane of the busy road and stop in the middle to safely wait before crossing the other traffic lane, he said.
Rebuilding the roadway and replacing buried utility lines that are a century old in places give the project an estimated total price of $2.57 million.
Construction is slated to begin in June and wrap up as late as early December.
The council is scheduled to vote on the project at this afternoon’s meeting. Acting City Council President Andrew Werthmann asked Solberg if the vote could be delayed, to get questions answered, yet still have the project completed this year.
The project would still need to be designed and bid on by contractors, Solberg said.
“It would be my preference to get a direction on which way to go as soon as possible,” Solberg said. “This is a big project.”