Investing in Peace: Wayne and Wanita Blumhorst
By Patricia Sullivan on Thursday, October 17th, 2013
It’s often said that Peace Corps is a “transformative” experience. What’s not so well recognized is that it can also be a transformative experience for the Volunteer’s family members. This is certainly true for Wayne and Wanita Blumhorst, new members of the National Peace Corps Association’s (NPCA) Director’s Circle.
Through financial backing and a strong commitment to community service, Director’s Circle members help the NPCA to maintain a vibrant presence in the Peace Corps community, and in turn ensure that the values of Peace Corps service continue to influence American life.
However, being the parents of the current NPCA President, Glenn Blumhorst, these two are not your average donors.
“While they understandably have a special fondness for the NPCA president,” said Glenn, “at the heart of the gift is their firm commitment to the pursuit of global peace and, specifically, to the mission of the NPCA as we further that vision.”
Their choice to give was not one made in haste. Although they did not serve in the Peace Corps themselves, they witnessed the value of the experience through their son’s service nearly 25 years ago. In addition, Glenn’s current position opened their eyes to all that the NPCA does in the Peace Corps community. “They consider NPCA’s role of championing RPCVs in ‘bringing the world home’ to be so very important in creating greater cross-cultural understanding and goodwill here in the United States,” Glenn said.
Global engagement, sparked by exposure to the Peace Corps
Glenn admits that his parents’ donation was “unexpected, but not so surprising” given their growing peace advocacy over the years, which began with their first trip abroad to visit him in Guatemala in early 1990. According to Glenn, his father told him that their “eyes were opened to the world” after that first trip.
“The experience motivated them to learn more about the disparities and injustices in the world, leading them to be progressively more involved and active in peace and justice issues,” said Glenn.
The Blumhorsts’ proactive commitment to making a difference in the world was initially centered on issues relating to Guatemala and Latin America. From there, their advocacy increased to joining peaceful protests and writing to members of Congress in opposition to the 1990-1991 Gulf War.
The two soon began engaging their local communities by joining organizations connected to larger social movements. Mr. Blumhorst, a peacetime Marine Corps veteran, joined Veterans for Peace and eventually made a trip to Iraq before the Gulf War “as a gesture of goodwill to the Iraqi people,” and later went to Cuba “to show solidarity with Cubans living under the trade embargo,” said Glenn.
In a similar fashion, Mrs. Blumhorst became a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), and eventually made a trip to Cuba, along with Glenn’s sister, as a part of a 75-woman delegation known as “De Hermana a Hermana.” She also helped establish the first WILPF organization in Columbia, Missouri, jointly with three other WILPF members.
“They are not your typical world travelers who see the world through a business or tourist optic,” Glenn said about his parents. “Their personal motivation is to learn firsthand what the world is all about, and then to do their part to bring about change for the better. Those ideals have taken them to places like Guatemala, Bolivia, Cuba, Mexico, Belize, and Iraq, as well as to Capitol Hill—numerous times.”
The NPCA president admits “my work ethic, my adventurous spirit and my desire to help others in the world certainly is a product of my parents’ nurturing,” and he acknowledges that many of these traits are what led him to his Peace Corps service in the first place. They were always supportive of him and they encouraged him to attend college and “to pursue his passion for travel, agriculture and altruism,” said Glenn.
The lack of phone and Internet during Glenn’s time of service meant a sacrifice in communication for the Blumhorsts, but they knew the sacrifice was well worth it when they saw Guatemala with their own eyes. According to Glenn, “they had left the United States with a perspective quite typical of many Americans and returned home with vivid images of our rural village, its indigenous people and the tremendous poverty in which so many Guatemalans were living.”
A similar sacrifice is echoed in the Blumhorst’s charitable donation to the NPCA, as they knew their money was going to the greater good. “My first reaction was of hesitation, knowing that such a large donation represented a stretch of their financial means,” Glenn said.
“However, once they shared with me their personal motivation to support the NPCA mission, and their firm conviction that it would render a good return on the investment, I relented. They are bona fide members of the Peace Corps community and confident investors in the NPCA mission.”
Director’s Circle are trusted leaders and advise the Peace Corps community on important topics. They are the financial backbone of the NPCA and are active service volunteers who ensure that Peace Corps values continue to resonate in American life. To learn more, visit http://www.peacecorpsconnect.org/contact-us/contributing/directors-circle/.