When Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022, Rotarian Fran Wargolet felt compelled to help those impacted by the escalating conflict.

As a long-time member of the Rotary Club of Kenosha, Wisconsin, Fran went to Rotary.org to explore ways to provide aid. She soon learned about ShelterBox, a disaster relief charity founded in 2000 by Rotary Clubs in the UK. ShelterBox was already on the ground in Ukraine, providing vital shelter and supplies to displaced families.

Though retired, 76-year-old Fran was determined to get involved. She contacted ShelterBox and asked, "How can I help spread awareness about your relief efforts?" Soon after, Fran became a ShelterBox Ambassador. She began traveling around Wisconsin giving presentations at Rotary Club meetings to share ShelterBox’s mission. To date, she has spoken to over a dozen clubs, garnering support and funding for ShelterBox initiatives.

How ShelterBox Works

ShelterBox has grown from its humble beginnings helping just 10 families into an independent charity that partners closely with Rotary International. When disaster strikes worldwide, ShelterBox is often one of the first organizations to

respond, rushing to deliver emergency shelter, tools, and supplies to devastated communities.

Fran passionately explains how ShelterBox provides aid tailored to each situation. Customized ShelterKits contain essentials like tents, blankets, cooking sets, solar lights, and tools.

Whenever possible, ShelterBox purchases relief items from local vendors to boost disaster-stricken economies. Teams also train Rotary volunteers in the region, promoting sustainability and resilience.

Disaster Readiness Project for the Philippines

A current priority is ShelterBox Operation Philippines (SBOP), which aims to raise $1.6 million before 2024.

The Philippines has the highest risk and vulnerability to natural disasters according to the UN, with 9.7 million children displaced by disasters there - the highest number worldwide.

As Fran said, "We’re trying to be proactive and set up materials so we can be ready when disaster hits."

The funding will prepare the Philippines for future typhoons by prepositioning supplies and expanding training. With long-term planning, ShelterBox hopes to help 15,000 Filipino families quickly when catastrophes occur. This expanded capacity will help bridge the estimated 2.3 million-person emergency shelter gap in a worst-case disaster scenario.

Local Work with a Global Impact

While Fran focuses her Rotary work locally, the funds she helps secure are dispersed internationally. Conferences have allowed her to meet ShelterBox Response Teams as they prepare to deploy into areas decimated by hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, and war.

Their commitment to provide immediate relief along with community training and development continues to inspire Fran.

In August 2022, Fran took her service commitment one step further, embarking on a 30-mile charity hike through California's Yosemite National Park with her daughter and granddaughter to raise money for ShelterBox.

Thanks to media coverage and a wave of donations from friends and strangers alike, their three-generation trek generated nearly $16,000 to aid ShelterBox’s global outreach.

Get Involved with Your Local Rotary Club

At Rotary's core is the ideal of "Service Above Self." Through clubs like Kenosha's, dedicated members like Fran Wargolet represent the spirit of Rotary. Their grassroots efforts highlight how one person can drive local action that ripples out to deliver international impact.

If you feel inspired to positively change lives, connect with your community, and reach across the globe, find a local Rotary Club to join. With 1.4 million members worldwide, Rotary welcomes all who want to take meaningful action and give back.