“Making a difference:” Milwaukee woman wins Ten Outstanding Young Americans Award

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Winning an award was the furthest thing from Catherine Draeger's mind when she began fulfilling her mission of helping others. It all started when she began searching for a support group for the loved ones of police officers.

"My ex-husband was at his third funeral in just over six months for an officer who had committed suicide. What do you do that day? What do you say to him when he walks back through the door? I had no resources. I didn't know what to do," said Draeger.

Draeger began connecting with the wives of other police officers and eventually founded Shielded Hearts.

The organization encourages hope in police life through education, friendship, service and faith.

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"Just to be privileged to be able to sit next to somebody and say I don't have all the answers. I can't do anything, but I can be here with you. That's just something that keeps you going," said Draeger.

After establishing Shielded Hearts Draeger decided she wanted to do more and that's when she got involved in Friedens Food Pantry.

"Last year at Friedens between our food pantry network we served 36,000 people. To put that in perspective that's almost filling Miller Park," said Draeger.

It's this work that made her a recipient for The United States Junior Chamber Ten Outstanding Young Americans Award.

"It was a little overwhelming when I originally found out was I in the top 20. And then to find out you're in the top ten is just a little surreal," said Draeger.

Now Draeger is inspired to work even harder doing what she loves.

"It's something you do because you're just passionate about it. I'm passionate in making a difference in people's lives," said Draeger.

Draeger founded Shielded Hearts nine years ago. It is now launching chapters in Green Bay and Kansas City with more than 400 members.