How long have you been a United Way volunteer?
I believe I have been volunteering for about 15 years now! As a volunteer, I have been the UT Martin campus coordinator for United Way. I have served as the county board chair as well as the county campaign chair. This will be my second go-around on the West Tennessee board and I am currently still on the county board, and I just started a term as one of the at-large members for the state-wide board. I love volunteering and giving my time; I would not still be volunteering if I did not truly believe in what United Way does.
Why do you volunteer for United Way?
United Way is a great group of people who want to help other people. I look at work that United Ways are doing across the state and especially United Way of West Tennessee, and I think they are the convener; they are the ones who are bringing people together to talk about these social issues we need to face. That is the reason I am involved because I have been blessed in life, and not everyone comes from a very supportive structure, so I believe we owe it to our community to step in and be that structure for them.
I have a passion for this campus, for education, and for helping people. I just told the state board the other day that I am a “Peddler of Hope” and a “Supporter of Dreams.” That’s my role on UTM’s campus, and that is what we are doing, whether for higher education or working with a nonprofit, we are bringing in someone who has aspirations of being in a better place and we are able to provide them with the substance, material, guidance, and inspiration to reach for the next level.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of serving as a UW volunteer?
Seeing the expressions on some of our service agencies’ faces, of directors and volunteers who are working for the service agencies, of those providing the service, they are in the trenches. We come in on the backside and just get some of the support there, but they are the ones that are really doing the work and making the changes. I love to see when United Way has been able to come in and do something that has helped them, and you can really see it in their faces. They say I am not alone; someone is here, someone believes in what I am doing, and they trust what I am doing. That is the real rewarding part. A lot of times we do not get to see the outcomes, mostly we just see what is on paper. But when we are able to go out and see the interaction, that is what puts the fuel in my car everyday to drive to do more.
Will you continue to volunteer if another opportunity arises?
If I see where I can be of good use with my skillset to help the organization, yes, absolutely. I do not want to be on the board just so I can say I am on the board; I want to be doing something and making a difference. The day I get to the point where I no longer feel like I am making a difference or I have gotten burnt out, I am doing the organization a disservice by staying on. They need fresh blood and energy. But for now, I will still pour everything I have into volunteering where I can.
What would you say to anyone who is looking to volunteer within/and for their local community? Why volunteer for United Way?
I would say volunteering for the local United Way gives you lots of opportunities to interact with many different agencies in your community. You have a chance to be a part of the broader impact they are having in the community and through different cities in your own county. Because of United Way, I have even learned so much more about agencies in my own county I had no previous knowledge of! Also, through our knowledge of United Way, we actually become great resources for own community. If someone is in need, we know where and who to direct them to.