BELOIT - Bryan Northrop’s motivation for volunteering in the community was prompted by both professional and personal experiences. As a son, he saw the positive impact home delivered meals had on his father as he recovered from an illness while living in Burlington.
And as a member of the Beloit Fire Department for more than 32 years, retiring as Deputy Chief, Northrop said, “you see a lot of need in the community, and I wanted to find something where I could give back and help.”
Putting that motivation into action is why Bryan Northrop is being honored as the Beloit Daily News Volunteer of the Month for May.
While he was still working for the fire department, Northrop inquired at the Beloit Meals On Wheels (BMOW) office regarding the opportunity to deliver meals.
“I would see the difference a good healthy meal would make, that this program helped to keep people in their homes,” he shared.
His involvement with the program expanded as he joined the board of directors.
“We recruited Bryan for the Beloit Meals on Wheels board because of his volunteer experience,” said former BMOW board president, Jeff Johnson. “Being a small organization, our directors often help with compliance issues. Even though it was not his area of expertise, Bryan took responsibility for updating our personnel policies.”
“He has a gift for learning new material with remarkable speed. If Bryan says he’ll take care of an issue, then you know it will get done,” Johnson said.
After retirement, Northrop saw a column in the Beloit Daily News that indicated volunteers were needed to deliver air conditioners to seniors, and he responded.
David Zimdars, Executive Director of VAC (Voluntary Action Center) at that time said of Northrop, “He was always positive in our interactions and he had a good sense of the kind of good that was being done through the air conditioner program. Like many a firefighter before him, he had a heart for the community that didn’t stop when he was done working. He was more than willing to put his vehicle, his back, and his time into the program—delivering free air conditioners to low-income, health-challenged seniors in Rock County—sometimes driving as far as Edgerton, Clinton, Milton, or Janesville to make a delivery.”
Indeed, Northrop acknowledged that during ambulance calls to a home they would often be a part of the worst day of a person’s life.
“I would often wonder if they would ever be able to return home,” he said. “But then I hoped that with the help of these air conditioners maybe they wouldn’t need another ambulance ride.”
Because of his interaction with United Way agencies, he also volunteered to serve on an allocation panel, helping to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of programs and recommend allocation amounts.
United Way Blackhawk Region CEO Mary Fanning-Penny said Northrop was a previous member of one of United Way's Review Panels collectively dedicating upwards of 600 hours, where he helped to carefully assess programs applying for funding. Fanning-Penny said community-minded volunteers like Northrup create positive, lasting change in the lives of individuals and families in Rock County and northern Winnebago County.
Bryan would again be able to put his professional expertise to work as he volunteered with VetsRoll a couple of years, serving on a medical team during the annual trek to Washington D.C.
“I was touched by the participants who were so appreciative of the trip and the accompanying volunteers,” he said. “Here we were trying to show our appreciation for their
service, and all they could do was thank us over and over again.”
But the trip left a lasting impression.
“I was exhausted, but I felt really good about the effort. I had a high for about three days when we returned.”
Sometimes his volunteer efforts were more fun than philanthropic, as he helped serve as a spotter for the downtown Beloit Bike Race as well as work security for the Rockford Airfest.
Summing up his volunteering philosophy, Northrop says, “You really appreciate what you have, and you want to give back.”