The Journal Gazette
Sunday, November 22, 2020 1:00 am

Volunteer Spotlight

Holiday season brings chance to spread joy

JESSICA GARVIN | The Journal Gazette

Sharing the joy of Christmas for families that are less fortunate and witnessing the generosity of the community brings joy to Joan Gumbert. Despite the challenges the coronavirus presented this year, the 67-year-old chairperson for the Allen County Christmas Bureau's Adopt-a-Family Committee worked hard to ensure this year's program went smoothly. Her profile follows:

Daytime Occupation (if retired, please include from where you retired): I retired in 2011 from Navistar when our positions were moved to the Chicago office. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to take an early retirement instead of moving away from my family.

City of birth: Defiance, Ohio

Current hometown: Fort Wayne

Family: Husband Ken Gumbert, a son and three daughters, and 12 grandchildren, all of whom live in the Fort Wayne area

Volunteer position/organization: I am a volunteer with the Allen County Christmas Bureau, and am presently the Chair of the Adopt-A-Family Committee.

Time volunteering with the organization: I began volunteering in 2013 and was elected to the Board of Directors in 2017.

Why did you first get involved with the organization? After I retired, I wanted to keep busy, and was looking for a way to use my abilities in a volunteer capacity.

Do you have a favorite memory from volunteering? My favorite memory is of the first day I worked in the warehouse and saw the deliveries of the adopters start to come in. I was in awe of the amount of boxes that filled that warehouse in four hours. In the afternoon, they were all picked up by the agencies sponsoring the adoptees. The same thing happened the next two days. What a wonderful display of generosity it was. I was a bit overwhelmed.

What is the biggest personal benefit you receive from volunteering? I love that I have made many new friends that share my desire to volunteer. Networking provides more opportunities to find areas where help is needed.

What has surprised you the most about volunteering with the organization? I am totally amazed at how generous our adopters are. So many of them go far beyond our requirements in order to provide an unforgettable Christmas for their adopted family.

What do you find most challenging? In any given year, we take on the task of finding adopters for more than 350 families in a few short weeks.

This year has been particularly challenging due to the coronavirus and the inability of some of our regular adopters to provide for a family this year. Thankfully, we have had more than 90 new adopters step up this year, which we are so grateful for.

What is your strongest belief/personal philosophy about the cause? I feel that Christmas is a very special time of year. The Christmas Bureau not only provides the means for so many less fortunate families to celebrate the joy of the season, but it also offers families and businesses a way to participate and make their Christmas more meaningful.

What is the best advice you would give someone interested in volunteering or working for your cause? Being a volunteer for the Christmas Bureau is very rewarding. There are multiple ways to volunteer, based on your availability. If you are interested, please contact us at 260-710-2163 to receive a Volunteer Sign-up Form for 2021.

What are your hopes for and how do you see the organization/cause changing in the next five years? We are always keeping our eyes and ears open for a need that we can fill; that will not change. What I hope for is that we can move a bit more into the electronic age, while still maintaining a personal connection with our volunteers and adopters. We could not make this happen without them.

What are your hobbies/something people might not know about you outside of your volunteering? My husband and I own a business called Audrey's Pumpkin and Gourmet Cake Rolls, which we sell at craft shows and fairs.

We also do fundraising with several schools and organizations. I must give him the credit; he is the doer, I am the support.

Nominated by: Jane Surbeck, board president

Reason for nomination: “Joan has endless energy and she is the most organized person I have ever known. She became the Adopt-a-Family Chairperson of the Allen County Christmas Bureau this year and has put her heart and soul into it, making all aspects of our adoption process amazingly smooth. She is very deserving of this recognition.”

Organizations that wish to highlight an individual for the Volunteer Spotlight feature can contact Jessica Garvin at 260-461-8364 or email

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