Who is Gwen T. Jackson?

It has been said that when you hear the name Gwen T. Jackson, the words “spirit” and “dedication” come to mind. Gwen T. Jackson is a retired human resources vice president who participated extensively in American Red Cross leadership at the chapter, regional and national level. Jackson, Chair Emeritus for the American Red Cross in Southeastern Wisconsin, marked 50 years of Red Cross volunteer service in 2007. Gwen has been a leader throughout the Red Cross organization, as well as in the community.

Remarkably well known at both the local and national level, Gwen has positively impacted the lives of thousands and has greatly influenced the significance of volunteerism.

Jackson began her Red Cross career in 1961, as a volunteer in the Service to Military Families Department of the Greater Milwaukee Chapter of the American Red Cross. By 1988 she had risen to one of the highest volunteer positions in the organization—National Chair of Volunteers. Her leadership accomplishments during her four years in this national-level position were nothing shy of extraordinary. While serving as the National Chair of Volunteers, Gwen coined the phrase, “Paid staff get a paycheck and volunteer staff get a payback.”

At both the community and the national level, Jackson has worked tirelessly on Red Cross projects. Ms. Jackson has been a leader through many Red Cross experiences and has proven herself to be nothing less than exceptional.  Her varied contributions include assistance with major natural disasters such as Hurricane Hugo and the Loma Prieta Earthquake; support for Persian Gulf War efforts; and serving as a member of the American Red Cross Board of Governors.

Gwen’s life-long commitment to civic involvement has earned her numerous awards and well-deserved recognitions. Her 50 years of volunteer leadership as we honor her with the establishment of the Gwen T. Jackson Leadership Endowment  Some of her additional accomplishments include: Cynthia Wedel Award, an honor that is presented to a Red Cross volunteer whose outstanding efforts might otherwise go unrecognized. The Gwen T. Jackson Community Service Award was established in 1981 and is presented annually to the United Way volunteer who best exemplifies a spirit of volunteerism and dedication to one’s community and fellow man. In addition, Gwen has been dedicated to the YWCA since 1979 where she has served on the Board of Directors and as a member of the Circle of Women. In 1995 the YWCA named a building in the Y-Villages after her – “Gwen T. Jackson Senior Building”. “I have had a very fulfilling life and I believe it is expected of me to give back to my community,” Gwen said. “It is so much fun and I grow every day from volunteering.”

In the late 1950’s Gwen was on the Family Life Committee of the Milwaukee Urban League. Child care was the predominant issue identified and along with colleague, Edith Finlayson, Gwen began working with the EB Phillips Child Care Center.  Thus the advocacy journey of Gwen Jackson, community volunteer, began.

Throughout the next decades she participated in a variety of committees designed to improve public policy around early childhood issues.  This included a vice-chair position along with then Supervisor Paul Mathews, to examine a voucher system of payment for child care services.  She was then appointed Chairperson of what became known as the Child Care Advisory Committee designed to bring a community voice to the implementation of the new and expanded payment system.  She continued as Chair through the late 1990’s.

Beginning in 2000, Gwen was asked by County Executive Ament to explore and then lead the formation of the Early Childhood Council of Milwaukee to bring together decision makers and their resources to improve Milwaukee area early childhood services.  She was the first chair of the ECC and remained a member until the Council was discontinued.  As chair, felt job was to make sure that there was “a group of people working together for the betterment of the children of our community.”

During this journey she was appointed to the State Child Care Council and received the Milwaukee Links Edith Finlayson award. She also met Lorraine Carter whose wisdom and grace she credits for shaping some of her early knowledge and passion for early childhood education.

Gwen T. Jackson has been a prominent voice for almost 50 years in support of young children. She has never hesitated to exert her influence in multiple sectors – including the business community and the world of philanthropy. Her work and her thinking are permanently etched into our public policy, practice and resources through her long-standing leadership and participation in public sector-community partnerships on critical Milwaukee concerns.