Volunteerism is a major aspect of most YP orgs in the region. Maybe it’s the great feeling people get from making a difference or the perfect platform it provides for networking and socializing – either way, volunteering seems to be a on the calendars for many YP groups. There are two YP orgs in our region that focus less on social or professional events and spend their time making a difference through volunteerism. I talked to Jessica Saunders from the Junior League of Dayton and Lisa Henderson from the Red Cross Associate Board to learn a little more about how their groups approach volunteerism and how they’re making a difference in the region.
Saunders and Henderson have quite a bit in common – both come from other Midwestern towns and have made Dayton their home through community involvement and careers at Dayton Children’s Hospital. Both women discovered their organizations through friends and colleagues in other local organizations. Saunders learned about the JLD through Dayton History and her work at Children’s, while Henderson decided to get involved with the RCAB due to friends at Generation Dayton extending an invitation to a recruiting event.
But now that they’re hooked in the region and with their organizations, I had some questions for Henderson and Saunders to learn a little more about the RCAB and JLD. You can get a lot of great information about mission, membership requirements, and upcoming events from the Web sites, but I wanted the personal stories within the organizations and the values they provide the community and their members.
I can read a Web site, but I wanted to know the short answer about the mission of these orgs and the crux of what they do. Saunders has the elevator pitch down to a science, according to her, Junior League Dayton is “an organization that builds women to be community leaders and community volunteers.” Henderson explains that the Red Cross Associate Board “supports the Red Cross through planning a fundraiser, The Great Escape.” She’s quick to add, “The funds we raise at The Great Escape stay in the Dayton region.”
And these organizations both offer unique and varied opportunities in the pursuit of their missions. Henderson is excited about the hands-on way to make a difference through the planning of their yearly event. She says, “The fact that (the associate board) hosts one of the Red Cross’ largest fundraisers means our board members are truly making a difference and are certainly hands on. Each member has the opportunity to pick a committee or area that most interests them (securing sponsors, helping with marketing, etc)… It’s also a great way to develop skills – for example, I learned so much about event planning by getting involved with the logistics committee. We are able to see an event and fundraising from start to finish, which is always such a great feeling!” Although the work the members are doing is geared toward this major one-time event, the experiences stick with the members. Henderson explains that through the work of planning this major event, board members have the opportunity to learn more about the great work the Red Cross is doing nationally and in the region, and the board can help them connect more if they’re interested in volunteering in other ways.
Saunders is excited to talk about what makes the Junior League unique – the focus on developing women’s leadership opportunities. For anyone who doesn’t know, the Junior League is a woman-only organizations (sorry, guys). She believes, an “organization of all women is great because it gives you an opportunity to learn from women who are at every age and stage of their lives. There are also many leadership opportunities and training opportunities within the league – if you want to learn about fundraising there is a place for that. If you are interested in marketing – you can learn about that. And of course – there are many opportunities to volunteer throughout the community.” Althought the Junior League is an organization for developing the leadership skills and community involvement for younger women (20s and 30s), they keep strong relationships with their “sustainers” who have graduated from the program and provide valuable insights and connections.
Both organizations provide great ways to get involved, meet people, and make a difference. But – in case the descriptions aren’t enough to spark full interest – I wanted to know more. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities out there – you can open the paper any day and find ways to give back to the community. I asked these women what makes a volunteer organization so much worthwhile than periodic stints at individual volunteering. Both had great insights.
Saunders is excited about the total impact the League offers. She says, “It’s really great to see what a group of people can do to improve the community. Doing something together not only results in something positive for the community but builds some bonds that last through your entire life. The Junior League ‘sustainers’ continue to build on friendships they started in the league decades ago! It is important for young people to join the JLD because it’s a wonderful organization that is so tied to our Dayton history. If you are new to the community – it’s not only a great way to network but a great way to learn about the city!” And when I challenged her that some people just aren’t “joiners,” Saunders had an answer for that, too. She understands that feeling, but believes that “there is a time and place for joining organizations.” Although she can’t make that decision for others, she is pleased with her choice to get involved with JLD. She says, “I am forever grateful for the relationships – both professionally and personally – that I have from the organizations or groups that I have joined.”
If you’re anti-organization, Henderson mentions that there are plenty of nonprofits out there with great causes that provide you with the opportunity to give back -and you don’t have to “join” anything. She points out, “You can really match your interests and time to what’s out there. Don’t limit yourself!” But being a part of a larger organization does offer perks. Henderson believes, “It’s great to be a part of something on an ongoing basis because you can see the long-term impact of what you do. The associate board is able to raise money, and then can see what a difference those funds have made for the community!”
Although the focus of the Red Cross Associate Board is on providing needed support to the local chapter of the Red Cross, there are great opportunities for professional development as well. Henderson raves about the amazing people she has met through the organization both at the Red Cross and on the associate board. Beyond networking, she says, “I have been able to participate in all areas of planning for The Great Escape and have developed skills that help me be a better leader professionally and in my other organizations.” In addition to gaining valuable skills like leadership, communication, and project management, Henderson is also really pleased with how she’s been able to expand her social network. She’s happy to share stories about great friends she’s met through her involvement with the associate board. Henderson sums up her experience by stating that, “YP volunteer organizations are more than just about the volunteerism. (By not being involved), you’ll miss out on a chance to meet new people and give back to the community!”
Saunders also has great experiences beyond the valuable community-based work she does with League. She says, “I love the opportunity to work with some really great women on issues that affect our community.” And although the JLD focuses on volunteerism, it has been very valuable to her in other realms. Saunders says, “Professionally – it’s a wonderful way to network. Socially – it’s my escape from my professional life! There are many opportunities throughout the year to hone both of these skills.”
By speaking to these two charismatic and engaged women, I learned a lot more about the Junior League of Dayton and the Dayton chapter of the Red Cross Associate Board. But before wrapping up, I wanted to know more about their impression of the Dayton region as a whole, what it’s like to be a YP in the city, and why some people perceive a sense of apathy from local YPs. Saunders cited a unique “problem;” She says, “I think there is too much to do!” Her solution for YPs who don’t feel involved is to do some homework, explore the various opportunities out there to find the one that “clicks,” and get hooked up with one of the many nonprofits (or volunteer organizations) out there that are always looking for volunteers.
For some final advice, Henderson says, “I think there has to be personal initiative to get engaged, but there is no lack of opportunity here in Dayton. (Nonprofits) want our input, expertise, fresh ideas and energy. Get involved in one group and word tends to spread – soon you’ll have so many opportunities it will be hard to select which ones you want to do!”
Thanks to these ladies for taking the time to share their stories with me. Learn more about these great organizations at their recruitment events this summer. The Dayton Area Red Cross Associate Board and the Junior League of Dayton are both hosting recruitment events THIS THURSDAY so you can learn more.
Dayton Area Red Cross Associate Board Recruitment Event
When: Thursday, June 24th from 6-8PM
Where: Norton’s Sports Bar and Grille – 580 Lincoln Park Blvd. (Near the Fraze Pavilion)
*Appetizers sponsored by the Red Cross*
Junior League of Dayton Recruitment Event
When: Thursday, June 24 from 6-8 PM
Where: Blue Star Mothers #3 at Town and Country Shopping Center (near Figlio)
*Make a difference for our troops at this Care Package Party and learn more about JLD*