Founder of The Restoration Project. “I have been an active volunteer in this community since I moved here in 2005, volunteering for farmer’s markets, United Way’s Day of Caring and other day or team-based projects. I have been able to serve in a board capacity since 2008 starting with the Linn County Trails Association and the YMCA. Today, I am a board member of 100+ Who Care – Cedar Rapids Metro, Junior Achievement and House of Hope. I volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and Waypoint, and love to join friends and colleagues in their volunteer efforts when I can.”
What causes are you most passionate about and why? I am passionate about causes that align with my life experience and organizations that have been able to help me, as well as those that serve the most critical needs of our community and are great leaders and good stewards of their resources. For instance, I am a survivor of domestic violence and have had amazing mentors in my life which have positively shaped me in a million ways. This is why I give back with my time and treasure to Waypoint and Big Brothers Big Sisters. I know from my life experience how big of an impact these organizations can make because I have been positively impacted by them. I serve on 100+ Who Care because I believe it’s a great model for promoting philanthropy and supporting small, local organizations in a way that is easy and impactful. I serve on the Junior Achievement (JA) board because I believe in the power of entrepreneurship and financial stability as a driver or a successful human being and collective community. I serve on the House of Hope board because I believe in their mission to encourage, empower and equip people in a holistic way. Our community is struggling and more than ever; we need safe spaces like the House of Hope to help people see how amazing they truly are and help them get back on their feet. My heart is in this ministry and the team who carries it out everyday is one of the best I know.
In what ways do you give back to the community? As an individual, family and a business, we have a strategy for giving back. I think through how many hours I have in a week and how much I can devote to volunteering. As a business, each team member is encouraged to give hours to organizations and individuals who can’t afford our services. We have a line item in our budget for sponsorships and philanthropic giving, and we discuss as a team which causes we want to support and promote. As a family, my husband and I identify causes and a dollar amount every year that we will give. We also have a bucket of money we set aside for things that pop up like supporting a friend through a tough time, helping a family member with medical bills or contributing to a special project like a capital campaign. We have found that if we don’t plan for giving like we plan for everything else, we don’t do it well. It’s important for us to have a strategy around how we give our time, talent and treasure.
If someone is new to nonprofit or volunteer work, how do you recommend they get started? Start with what you care about personally, or who you know and respect and go make an ask for how you can help and support. I started by participating through other people I knew who had causes they were passionate about. I tried several different things and worked with several different organizations as I identified the causes and organizations I wanted to serve and support. Once I found those that aligned with my personal passions and interests, I took it upon myself to reach out to them and form a relationship. So many nonprofits are busy doing the work, they would love to have someone reach out and ask how they can get involved. I would also encourage you to be honest about what is reasonable and realistic. It’s very easy to overcommit. Start with one thing and do it well. So many of us take an all or nothing approach, which isn’t helpful to anyone. Do what you can do and do it well. One seemingly small contribution of your time or money is needed, and it is enough!
How can readers support your favorite causes? This is my favorite question. Thank you for asking it! Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) and Junior Achievement need volunteers. If you love kids, then these opportunities are for you. Reach out and explore what it means to be a Match through BBBS. It is so easy and rewarding, and also incredibly impactful. There are over 150 kids waiting for matches right now in the Cedar Rapids area. For JA, reach out through the website and inquire about being a classroom volunteer. It’s a low time commitment and high-impact activity. You get to share ideas and opportunities with these kids they wouldn’t otherwise hear, and you can do it over a lunch hour. For 100+, Waypoint and House of Hope: Attend one of our events throughout the year to meet these communities these organizations have built and see all the ways you can get involved and give back. Follow on Facebook, check out the events on their website and attend. And of course, if you are a fan of any of these organizations, we are always accepting monetary donations. I promise that each of these organizations have good leaders who will steward your money well.