Volunteer Voices

When I think of volunteering in Door County, one of the people who comes to mind is Shirley Senarighi, especially this time of year with election season as Shirley is one of the many faces of the League of Women Voters. This past summer, if you were in Sister Bay in August after the five-inch rainfall, Shirley was volunteering with the American Red Cross. Many of you may have encountered Shirley recently as she spoke about her newest passion – the Door County Civility Project. Clearly, volunteering has made Shirley’s life richer. As you read the article that follows, you will find her main interests are mental health and civic engagement.

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I sat down with Shirley to discuss her thoughts on volunteering in Door County. To begin, I asked Shirley to describe the organizations where she volunteers and the work they do.

Shirley started with her newest project which began in 2013, the Civility Project. Shirley explained that the “goal of the group is to incorporate the basic principles of civility in everyday life and think about civility…we’re trying to get people to recommit to civil behavior and civil discourse.” The group has made about 50 presentations throughout Door County with the theme to be civil to each other. While we don’t always have to agree, we must be respectful in our disagreements. “If each of us stopped and thought about our own words and actions,” said Shirley, “our communities would be more civil.”

Shirley also spoke of her service to the League of Women Voters. In Door County, the League has been around for about 60 years and stresses its commitment to nonpartisan voter education. The League has been Shirley’s passion for about the last 10 years.

A third organization that Shirley has volunteered her time for 14 years is PFLAG – Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. This group is devoted to the health and wellbeing of lesbians and gays. One of its purposes is to educate all of us about the importance of equal rights for all people regardless of their sexual orientation.

For about eight years, Shirley has volunteered for the American Red Cross. She recently spent time in Joplin, Mo., after the tornado destroyed that community. Her main focus was to help people with mental health issues that result from disasters, such as the tornado.

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She also volunteers for the Door County Critical Incident Stress Management Team, which is a team of people that help people debrief after serious trauma. This group is available to help groups move forward after tragedies. She’s been in it for about 10 years.

And, finally, she has been active in Hope United Church of Christ for more years than she can remember.

In each and every volunteer activity that Shirley has experienced she is most proud of the individual contact and relationship building that she has achieved. She also noted the importance of seeing things change for people in crisis. She noted, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

Her advice to those looking to get into volunteering is to go to the internet and research an activity that you’re interested in. Start small and see if you like something before committing big. She has used the Volunteer Center of Door County website and would recommend that anyone interested in volunteering also go to this site,

For more information about volunteering in Door County, visit, call 920.746.7704 or email [email protected].