Megan RonkSchool Spirit and Volunteerism Lead to Meaningful Board Position
Economic Development and Innovation Director Megan Ronk has always been a hard worker, no matter what the role. But she has learned that her best value as a volunteer comes when she has a personal connection to the organization’s mission. As someone who gives her all to whatever she’s involved in, Megan must choose her commitments carefully, especially when balancing a demanding full-time job and an active family life.
“When I was a busy young mom, I had to pause some of my volunteer activities because I only had so much bandwidth,” Megan said. “I had to focus on the things that were most important to me — working full time and raising my babies.”
Megan always planned to volunteer again once her children were older, and when the opportunity to serve her alma mater came around, she jumped at the chance. She now serves on the College of Idaho Board of Trustees, picking up right where she left off as a student.
“I was very much involved in campus life when I was a student — from student government, to establishing a sorority, and then serving on the Alumni Advisory Council right after I graduated,” Megan shared. “So, it was incredibly humbling and flattering when they asked me to come back to serve as a trustee.”
As a trustee, Megan works alongside other local leaders and alumni to set the future direction for the college. She was even recently elected vice-chair of the board, a role she will undertake for two years until she transitions into chair of the board. Prior to being vice-chair, she chaired the Academic and Student Affairs committee, which focuses on everything from faculty promotions, sabbaticals and tenure to student life programs and athletics. In other words, right at the heart of all student activity — which she now gets to show to her two boys.
“It was important for me to stay engaged, serve as a mentor for students and support the future of the college that played such a pivotal role in my education and who I am today,” she said. “There’s a bonus of being able to include my kids in the campus experience. At an early age, they’re seeing what it’s like to be a college student and be a part of a community other than their family.”
Megan says seeing and interacting with students inspires a sense of optimism for the future.
“Today’s college students are inquisitive, they’re talented, they’re worldly, they have a strong work ethic,” she said. “Even in this little microcosm of Caldwell, Idaho, there’s this group of young people who are going to go out into the world and do great things.”
Megan’s advises those looking for meaningful board or volunteer work to get involved at the ground level with organizations you love, like mentoring a student or intern.
“It’s an opportunity to give your time and share your experience — including times you’ve had to pivot or learn from mistakes — all of those experiences are valuable for those entering the workforce.”
Field Services Technical Advisor Joey VanDorn knows her way around a rodeo.
From an early age, Joey would join her to professional rodeo parents on the road — exploring a new arena every weekend and meeting fellow cowboys and cowgirls from around the country. By age 10, she even had the opportunity to perform in a professional rodeo herself. When she wasn’t performing, Joey ran cattle, carried flags and helped with other tasks to keep the show going.
When her parents were inducted into the Idaho Rodeo Hall of Fame (IRHOF) in the mid-2010s, Joey wanted to get involved in keeping rodeo culture alive in Idaho. She recognized there wasn’t much “young blood” on the board, and with her professional rodeoing years ending, getting involved with the board seemed like a good way to keep the culture alive for generations to come.
Thanks to her years involved in professional rodeo, combined with valuable skills developed through her career at Idaho Power, Joey joined the board in 2019 and now acts as the IRHOF vice president.
“I love being involved with the Hall of Fame because I’m giving back to the sport I feel has formed me, while honoring new and past hall of fame inductees,” Joey said.
As vice president, Joey helps coordinate IRHOF’s annual fundraiser and induction events, including this fall’s cowboy/cowgirl reunion and induction ceremony to honor those who have dedicated themselves to the sport within Idaho by competing, performing, producing and inspiring others. She’s also helping to find a permanent home for IRHOF so they have a place to honor inductees and showcase memorabilia.
“Idaho Power really helped me develop my leadership and project management skills,” Joey said. “They even helped me get my business management degree, which has helped a lot during my time on the board.”
Learn more about IRHOF’s mission to preserve and promote western-American heritage and culture at idahorodeo.com, and keep an eye out for Idaho Power at rodeo events in your area throughout the year!
Jarek ZatloukalMentoring Immigrants for Successful Careers
By day, Jarek Zatloukal is an astute Sr. Internal Auditor who works hard crunching numbers and keeping Idaho Power’s financial health in check. But off the clock, Jarek volunteers at Global Talent by Jannus, an organization that addresses the barriers to employment that well-educated and highly skilled immigrants and refugees face. As the son of an immigrant, Jarek understands first-hand how hard the professional transition can be.
“I realize I have a lot of privilege,” Jarek said, “and I want to do what I can to help. I understand the advantages I’ve had and know that not everyone is starting from the same point.”
Jarek’s connection with Jannus initially started through his professional work, but after he found out about their Global Talent arm, he knew it was something he wanted to be involved in. Since he’s business- and tech-minded, Jarek focuses on mentoring refugees with business and accounting/finance backgrounds. He reviews resumes, helps people understand their path to getting the Certified Public Accountant credential (which is also referred to as a “chartered accountant” in other countries) — and most importantly — helps coach soft skills.
Hiring practices in other countries differ greatly from those in the United States. In other countries, professional interviews focus primarily on a candidate’s technical skills, with very little focus on emotional intelligence or “people skills” and attitude. Jarek said professional organizations in the U.S. are looking for people to sell themselves — and this can be an issue for immigrants who aren’t used to promoting themselves beyond their technical expertise.
He teaches the “attitude over aptitude” idea — working to make people more well-rounded in their professional lives. This wholistic mentoring approach has worked well for Jarek — he recently mentored an immigrant who went from working the night shift at Walmart to landing a professional accounting job.
Working to help people new to America find success has been a rewarding opportunity for Jarek, and he said there is a need for more volunteer mentors. Above all, Jarek said, “Make sure you’re volunteering for the right reasons. And keep a sense of humor!”
Jarek with Career Advisor Zahraa from Global Talent
To say snow is an important part of Robert Walters’ life would be an understatement. As a water resources specialist, Robert maintains ground generators essential to Idaho Power’s cloud seeding program. He has spent many winters skiing some of the steepest terrain all over the West. In recent years, he has turned his love of skiing into volunteer work with Boise Adaptive Snowsport Education (BASE), helping people with physical or cognitive challenges share his passion for powder.
“Working with BASE has really re-energized my skiing,” Robert said. “I had done all the skiing I wanted to do, had some pretty great ski experiences, done a lot of vertical, but it wasn’t fulfilling after a while. Being able to give back to the sport and to develop these relationships with students has really been amazing.”
BASE’s 70 volunteer instructors served 166 students — ages 4 to 70 — at Boise’s Bogus Basin ski resort last winter. Usually two instructors are with each student. The range of adaptations deployed to help students experience and learn to love skiing is immense. Blind students develop the skills and confidence needed to ski along with a guide. Students with amputations or other physical limitations may use equipment such as hand-held outriggers that provide extra stability to sit-skis that enable the user to sit on one or two skis and steer their way down the mountain. Instructors work with students who have autism to gain their trust and teach them how to master the snow.
“We even have adaptive snowboards where, with a few pieces of equipment, they can maximize their ability to really get out there and enjoy the sport,” Robert said.
BASE started in 1978. Robert moved to Boise in 1993. “But I always skied the back side, so I wasn’t aware of it. I actually considered starting an adaptive ski program, then I learned it was already being done.”
So he jumped on board, first as an instructor, then as a member of the board of directors — a role he has served for seven years.
“My biggest contribution is more on the technology side. In the early days, it was all spreadsheets and email. But when you are dealing with almost 500 lessons and trying to schedule instructors and communicate with everyone, it takes a lot behind the scenes.”
After taking a hit during the COVID pandemic, BASE was back to being fully staffed last winter. But they are always looking for new volunteers. Instructors come from a wide range of backgrounds, including college students who often move on and need to be replaced, Robert said.
“It really just takes a love of skiing and a desire to help people. We warn new instructors: You are going to become attached. The students rarely complain. They always try their hardest. And when you experience their victories with them, there’s no better feeling.”
To learn more, or to get involved, visit the BASE website at baseidaho.org.
David Bruner has been around crawfish most of his life. When he was growing up in Olympia, Washington, his uncle used to catch the small, lobster-like crustaceans and cook them in saltwater.
But there’s crawfish, and then there’s crawfish. David was introduced to the latter in the late 1990s when he was working as an instrument maintenance specialist at River Bend Station, a nuclear plant in northern Louisiana. He got to know a restaurant owner in Baton Rouge who showed him Cajun-style crawfish boils, complete with corn on the cob, sausage and spice mixes that provoke almost religious devotion — and arguments.
Almost 15 years later, David, now an Environmental Health and Safety Specialist at Idaho Power’s Langley Gulch Natural Gas Plant, and his wife, Tonnie, brought the crawfish boil to their backyard in Middleton. What started as a party quickly became an institution that raises money for a wide variety of charities.
Every year, typically on a Saturday afternoon in mid-June, the Bruners open their backyard for a true Cajun-style crawfish boil. They invite co-workers, friends, family and members of the community. They raffle off items donated by local businesses.
David’s co-workers at the plant pitch in, donating money and raffle items like guitars, gift cards, gift baskets, oil changes, firewood and boxes of ammunition.
“I’ve learned that people are giving,” David said. “I walk into a business. They don’t know me, and I say, ‘Hey I’m doing this event.’ And it’s amazing how many people respond positively…I’ve worked up some pretty good relationships over the years.”
Over the last five years, the Bruners’ crawfish boils have raised more than $15,000. The events start shortly after noon and continue well into the night so that David’s co-workers at Langley Gulch can belly up to the crawfish table even if they work late. About 150 people usually attend.
A band plays. Louisiana Crawfish Co., the company that sells the crawfish, also donates T-shirts, pots, burners and other crawfish-related items for the raffle.
The Bruners have long volunteered or raised money for community and charitable causes like Rake-Up Middleton, Rake-Up Boise and Relay for Life. When the Middleton chapter of Relay for Life disbanded, they took up the cause with the crawfish boil. They’ve since branched out to support other charities, including the Idaho Anti-Trafficking Coalition and 22 Too Many, a non-profit whose mission is to reduce veteran suicides.
“Life has blessed me, so I feel a need to give back,” David said. “There are so many people that need help that we might not know about. They might even be our neighbors.”
Idaho Power Finance Leader Javier Bucheli is one of many Idaho Power employees who volunteer their time, talents and money to help our neighbors in need — both locally, and across the globe.
On weekends, Javier teaches free English language Zoom classes for students living in his hometown of Portoviejo, Ecuador, and other cities in Argentina, Chile and the United States.
“When I was a teenager, my greatest goal was to learn English to fulfill my dream of attending college in the United States, but my parents couldn’t afford to enroll me in paid classes. Eventually, I was able to attend free English classes through my church. Learning English has changed my life by helping me obtain a great education in the United States and have a fulfilling career.”
When Zoom became popular during the pandemic, there was suddenly a way for Javier to give back to others by teaching students who want to learn English but don’t have the financial resources.
“I have been so fortunate to get to know brilliant students who work very hard to learn this beautiful language and who want to succeed. One of the things I love about teaching my students from so far away is that there is nothing they can do to repay me; instead, I challenge them to pay it forward. I am also very grateful to work for a company that encourages and emphasizes service and has been greatly involved in our community for so many years.”
Make no bones about it — Idaho Power Energy Advisor Michelle Glaze is a bona fide animal lover.
By day, Michelle works one-on-one with customers to help them save energy and money. By night (and on weekends), Michelle comes to the rescue of Canyon and Ada county animals in need. Michelle is not affiliated with a specific rescue organization but works independently and gets many of her leads from driving through neighborhoods, word-of-mouth or by monitoring lost-pet pages on the internet through sites like Facebook and Nextdoor. After doing this work for nearly 30 years, people know to call Michelle if they need pet help.
Michelle is a lifelong animal advocate, and her willingness to help knows no bounds. She has safely trapped lost pets, scanned for identifying microchips, driven animals to the veterinarian, provided temporary food and shelter and helped to raise money for pets in need.
Michelle recently helped a dog owner trap her Corgi that had been missing for 21 days near Lake Lowell southwest of Nampa. Timing is everything when it comes to animal trapping, and Michelle worked with the animal’s owner to find the perfect time to set a live trap. Because of the owner’s and Michelle’s hard work and patience, the Corgi was happily rescued and returned home.
Last year, Michelle rescued a female German Shepherd that had been chained outside during the coldest winter days. She approached the owners who said the dog belonged to their son (who had recently moved into an apartment), and they did not have money to care for it. Michelle raised $1,600 in three days through a fundraiser on Nextdoor. She took the family to D&B Supply where they bought the dog a large dog run and covered the costs to buy a new insulated dog house, a dog bed, astro turf, and the supplies to cover the dog run from rain and snow. She’s now safe and happy — and no longer chained without shelter.
“I must leave the animal in a better situation than I found it. I can’t stand by — I have to be their voice,” she said. Michelle also gives credit to the wonderful animal advocate community that surrounds her — currently they’re making blankets for kittens!
In addition to helping animals throughout the community, Michelle also cares for her own dog, a Catahoula who immediately formed a strong bond with her after she fostered him from an unsafe environment.
And her work isn’t limited to dogs: Michelle has rescued cats, squirrels, chickens and horses. If it has fur or feathers, it has a faithful friend at Idaho Power.
“It just seems like the right thing to do. I’ve known these people my whole life.” Casey Rowen, a Power Production Coordinator/Trainer in Hells Canyon, has lived most of his life in Halfway, Oregon, and has been a volunteer Pine Valley firefighter for 21 years. His contributions to this small, close-knit eastern Oregon community are apparent in the thousands of hours he has spent as a volunteer firefighter. That job goes beyond battling wildfires and blazes at homes and businesses. He is also a first responder for vehicle accidents (he’s trained in the Jaws Of Life™) and participates in search and rescue efforts.
Casey has been a volunteer for most of his 23-year career with the Idaho Power. He said the company has always supported his volunteerism, and his leader is very understanding when he needs to quickly leave work to help on a call.
Casey was recruited to volunteer by his friend who was serving as the assistant fire chief. His wife also pushed him to join. “There were a lot of older guys on the team, and they were looking for younger people to get involved,” Casey said.
He spends eight hours a month training. He’s always on-call in case of an emergency, so the hours he volunteers vary each month. Although some parts of the job have changed over the years – the pager that used to let him know he was needed has been replaced by a mobile phone app – the motivation to serve his neighbors remains the same.
“I love it. It’s an adrenaline rush,” Casey said. “And I don’t do it to make a big impact. I just do it for the community – to do my part.”
Energy Advisor Leo Sanchez gives back to his community both on and off the clock. As an energy advisor, he helps customers save money on their energy bill. And as a dedicated volunteer for La Posada, Leo gives a helping hand to the community’s less fortunate.
Leo has volunteered for La Posada for over 17 years. The Twin Falls area non-profit provides a wide range of services including immigration assistance, housing support, food pantry, tax preparation/support and domestic violence counseling. During the holidays, La Posada prepares gift baskets for people in need.
La Posada’s director, Sister Rosie, is a personal acquaintance of Leo and asked him to join the board – a decision that has helped feed his desire to give back. Leo says serving on the board and helping with the ministry has been the most fulfilling part of his work at La Posada.
As a son of immigrants, Leo feels extremely fortunate to have found a successful career and fulfilling life in Idaho. It’s important to Leo that he pay that fortune forward.
When he’s not volunteering at La Posada, Leo donates his time to the Rotary Club, the CSI Foundation Board and Gooding Community Action. He is also volunteers his time as a board member with the North Canyon Medical Center.
Leo feels volunteering is not only good for the community, but it also sets an important example for our children – his daughter became a Rotarian at 25!
Kim Dixon and Lisa NordstromChild Welfare Advocates
When they’re not working hard at their day jobs, Idaho Power Customer Service Operations Support Leader Kim Dixon (photo: left) and Lead Counsel Lisa Nordstrom (photo: right) volunteer with Family Advocates — an organization that has worked for over 40 years to strengthen families and keep kids safe in the Treasure Valley. Although both women donate their time to the same family-centric organization, they serve in very different (and equally important) roles to advocate for the best interest of abandoned, neglected and abused children in our community.
Kim is a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer. CASAs are appointed by the family court judge and advocate for the best interest of neglected children. Kim spends more than 10 hours-per-month interviewing children and family members, consulting with the children’s service providers, reviewing sensitive records and attending court hearings on behalf of children. It is Kim’s job to make recommendations to the judge about the children’s custody and placement.
Kim’s husband works with women nearing the end of their prison sentences. He inspired her to look for ways to help struggling mothers and children who need extra support. Kim likes that Family Advocates offers so many ways to get involved and allows volunteers to work at their own pace. Kim has been a CASA volunteer for 18 months and has already worked with 10 children.
Lisa is one of Family Advocates’ 100 court-appointed attorneys who represents more than 180 CASA volunteers like Kim. She works “pro-bono,” which denotes a lawyer performing work for free. The actual Latin translation is “for the public good,” which is an even better fit in Lisa’s case.
After starting her career as a Canyon County prosecutor where she was responsible for child protection cases, she knew volunteering with Family Advocates CASA Program would be a good way to continue putting her expertise to work for Idaho’s children.
Child welfare has been a recurring theme in her life; Lisa testified as a witness in a large California child abuse case when she was only 10 years old.
“It was very impactful — even though I wasn’t one of the younger children directly impacted,” Lisa said. “So this topic has always resonated with me.” Lisa has represented CASAs for more than 50 children during her 13 years as a Family Advocates volunteer.
“People talk about frustration with government and how they want to fix things. This is something I can do to fix some things. This is something we can do as a community, and we can make a huge impact. The work is heartbreaking and hard. It takes so much effort, but it’s so gratifying to give these kids a chance for a better life,” Lisa said.
Kim loves interacting with “my kiddos,” as she calls them.
“I do better with kids than adults,” Kim explained with a laugh. She loves getting to know them and having them get to know her.
Kim knows her hands-on role is making a difference, not only for the children, but also for the mothers who look to her as a role model.
While they are supporting vulnerable families, these Idaho Power volunteers are also strengthening the communities where they live and work.