2011 Humanitarian of the Year
Joe Herr, Tri-North Builders Inc.
When it comes to helping others, Joe Herr, a project manager at Tri-North Builders Inc., Fitchburg, fully commits.
“He doesn’t do things a little bit. He does a lot,” said Dawn Norton, a friend who works with Herr on his philanthropic pursuits.
Herr launched his own nonprofit organization, Logan’s Heart & Smiles, after his four-year-old son, Logan, passed away in 2002 from complications of cerebral palsy.
The organization helps provide construction services to families who do not have the resources or ability to adapt their homes for handicapped children. From wheelchair ramps and fences to bed and bath upgrades, Herr devotes his free time to making sure families get the resources they need.
During the past nine years, he and his organization have worked with more than 60 families throughout Wisconsin.
But Herr’s care for those he helps does not end once the projects are complete, said Deb Notstad, the mother of a disabled son and a beneficiary of Herr’s efforts.
“He and a friend came over and built a deck and wheelchair ramp,” she said. “That was four years ago, and we’ve been friends ever since.”
When Herr discovers the birth date of a new acquaintance, Norton said, he adds them to his vast list of birthday phone calls.
“He calls and plays “Happy Birthday” on his harmonica to hundreds of people,” she said, “people that help with the foundation, the people he works with, the families, his family. That’s just the kind of guy he is.”
Though he’d never ask, Norton said, she tries to help Herr at his organization’s annual golf outing, other fundraisers and with some of his projects.
“Joe hates to ask for help, so the best thing is to just show up and be there to help,” she said. “He’ll do everything on his own. There’s a lot of his blood, sweat and tears, and a lot of his money, too.”
The efforts mean the world, Notstad said, to families in need.
“It would be impossible for me and (my son) Adam’s care providers without the ramp to get him in and out of the house,” she said.
Herr also volunteers time each St. Patrick’s Day, when he dresses up as a leprechaun to entertain Madison-area children.
Though he may be small in stature, his care for others is vast, Notstad said.
“He has a heart bigger than anyone I know,” she said.
— Melissa Rigney Baxter