By James K. Rector, Heart of Arkansas United Way Community Investment Committee
Besides providing an opportunity to connect with some of the best people you will ever know, volunteering has the ability to educate and open doors.
When my friend from the Heart of Arkansas United Way reached out to me in January to ask if I would like to serve on this year’s Community Investment Committee, I almost said no. I made a promise to myself to focus a little more on my personal growth and self care this year, but before I realized what I was doing – I hit reply, typed “Of course! Can’t wait to be involved with the United Way!” and hit send.
You see, I have a bit of a problem. I love volunteering.
Service Starts Small
I was having a conversation with a friend the other day, and they asked a simple question, “When did you first start volunteering?”
It took me a moment, because I really struggled to remember, but after a minute I said “Dogs!”
As my friend stared at me with a puzzled look, I elaborated on my canine interjection. I explained that my first major volunteer role was setting up for dog obedience classes on Thursday nights to raise money for the high school band program. The worst part was the clean up, but the best part was the feeling of doing something good for the community with my friends. Perhaps that feeling is why I jumped on the opportunity to serve on the committee.
Making Service Happen
Volunteering can be exciting, but at times scary – an intimidating part of volunteering with a new organization is the unknown; however, from the minute I walked into the room for the training luncheon, I felt welcomed by the staff and volunteers of the Heart of Arkansas United Way.
It was clearly explained that the roles and responsibilities of this year’s committee would be very different from those in the past. The committee’s structure was a mix of seasoned and new volunteers paired up into three areas of focus: health, education and financial stability. I was selected to serve on the health committee.
Ultimately, our commitment was to review and score the grant applications from organizations respective to the focus areas based on a thoughtfully developed rubric, perform site visits with the applicants and finally regroup at the end to review and provide recommendations for how funds should be distributed to the organizations.
Truthfully, there was a bit of a time commitment to make all of the site visits and committee meetings, but fortunately, I work for a company that puts community service front and center. Stone Ward Advertising founders, Mille Ward and Larry Stone, made a “building good” philosophy the foundation for our twenty guiding principles. They have also been long time supporters of the Heart of Arkansas United Way, so naturally, they were very excited to hear that I was serving on the Community Investment Committee.
Getting to the Very Heart of Service
Through the process of volunteering on the committee, I’ve learned that the United Way is very active in the community. The organization has been strategic about how it can make the biggest impact on the people around us by addressing critical needs in the community with a focus on health, financial stability and education.
My favorite part of serving on the Community Investment Committee has been learning about all the outstanding organizations that offer services for our community, proving that change doesn’t happen alone and collaboration is key. Some of the organizations operate on very small budgets, and the funding provided by the United Way is critical to their ability to have an impact on the region.
My time with the committee has also proved that I don’t have a problem. My love for volunteering is shared with many people in Central Arkansas, and I look forward to the day my friend asks, “What has been your best volunteer experience?”
HEART OF ARKANSAS UNITED WAY | 1400 W Markham St, Little Rock | 501-376-4567