Breaking the Constraints: Victoria Cerinich and Peter Wyatt

In this year’s Philanthopy Issue we bring you the stories of eight people inspiring others in our community.

Name any Door County nonprofit, and chances are Victoria Cerinich and Peter Wyatt are either members, volunteers or supporters.

Door Property Owners? Check. League of Women Voters? Check. Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin, food pantries, Door County Buy Local? Check.

“Every person, every animal, every living organism should have the opportunity to breathe air, to drink water, to eat food and to have shelter,” Cerinich said. “There shouldn’t be so much that is skewed by artificial constraints that some have nothing while some have so much.”

When the couple retired to Door County, Cerinich from the Chicago Police Department and Wyatt from a career as an engineering consultant and nine years with the British Royal Navy, they saw the unique needs of the community.

“We learned about the community we lived in and found there were different issues, or different groups, that could use some help and I thought ‘well, why not?’” Cerinich said.

Cerinich and Wyatt are dedicated to a lot of causes, but some themes run strong in their volunteer energy.

They are dedicated to making sure people are represented and engaged in politics – that’s what drew them to join the League of Women Voters and found Door County Elect Women. They believe in access to clean water – that’s why they’re active in Safe Lawns and Door Property Owners. They believe in providing food and shelter to those who can’t afford it – that’s why they support local food pantries and Habitat for Humanity.

Cerinich models her philanthropy philosophy after a quote by Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein:  “It is justice, not charity, that is lacking in the world.”

“I feel it’s unfair that somebody who does something nobody else wants to do, like clean somebody’s house or intimate private restrooms, isn’t compensated well enough to feed their family,” Cerinich said. “That’s injustice. If I can do some volunteer work that means that person gets a little bit of help, I’m good with that.”

Volunteering is Cerinich and Wyatt’s way of righting that injustice. By providing services and information to people working long, tough hours, they can alleviate the out-of-work commitments.

“If I can provide help getting to a polling place, or provide a speaker on a subject that will be useful for that individual so they don’t have to take time away from this job that doesn’t pay them enough to learn, I will try to provide them that information and they can go ahead and earn their salary,” Cerinich said. “I’m trying to maximize their time away from that job.”

The opportunity to lead by example also drives Cerinich and Wyatt to work so hard at their volunteering. By dedicating themselves to causes, they might be able to encourage others to do the same.

“It only takes one time,” Cerinich said. “You don’t have to volunteer to do something every week or every month, you just have to do it once and the second time it will be easier.”