Douglas County Red Cross honors volunteers young and old

Margaret Shirk, 93, left, and Mckenzie Brungardt, 12, both volunteer with Douglas County Red Cross and recently were recognized for their volunteer activities.

Long-time Lawrence resident Margaret Shirk has been volunteering with Douglas County Red Cross since the mid-1960s. She’s pitched in on everything from blood drives to disaster relief.

Her 45 years of service with the agency is the record, but someday Mckenzie Brungardt might break it.

Mckenzie, 12, has a good start so far, as she’s been volunteering with the Red Cross since she was 7.

Is Shirk worried about the upstart unseating her as the longest-tenured volunteer?

“Oh no, I hope she does,” said Shirk, 93. “I’m not trying to break any records.”

Shirk and Mckenzie were recently honored for their service with the agency.

The 80-year age difference between the two volunteers has advantages, said Jane Blocher, Red Cross executive director.

Mckenzie “helps us gauge what activities young volunteers are interested in,” Blocher said.

Shirk, on the other hand, knows just about everyone in town and gives the Red Cross credibility.

“They know if she puts her stamp on an organization, it’s worthwhile,” Blocher said.

Shirk thinks back to her early years with the Red Cross, and said she started because she had some free time and wanted to pitch in.

“I didn’t just want to sit around and not do anything,” she said.

Mckenzie got her start in public service following Hurricane Katrina. She had a lemonade stand and donated the profits to help with the relief efforts. One day, she learned her neighbor, Blocher, worked for the Red Cross.

“I begged her to come along,” Mckenzie said.

Blocher let her tag along, and Mckenzie hasn’t stopped yet.

Mckenzie’s a perfect example, said Shirk, “that no matter what age you are, you can always make a difference.”