United Way of Greater Kingsport (UWGK) hosted its inaugural Community Volunteer Fair at the Toy. F. Reid Eastman Employee Center on April 21, 2016 in conjunction with National Volunteer Month. The fair championed volunteerism as a means of networking within the community, developing or leveraging skills, engaging in professional development, and taking on leadership roles, all while giving back to the community. It showcased four community volunteers in different walks of life who serve in leadership roles with the United Way and other organizations, while giving attendees the opportunity to learn more about the various volunteer opportunities in the community. Attendees also had the opportunity to win various prizes, including United Way t-shirts, tote bags, and a donated YETI cup.
Craig Denison, UWGK Board President, kicked off the event, saying, “Most of us know volunteerism is important to the community, but what we don’t always consider is how important volunteering is for ourselves. Volunteering is a way to give back, to serve our community, but it is also a means of bettering ourselves. It is an opportunity to find a passion. To leverage skills or expertise or learn new skills. To network with your peers and community leaders and to meet people with similar values. It is an opportunity for personal, as well as professional, development.”
The fair featured various leadership and board opportunities, as well as more “hands-on” and one-time options. Eight UWGK committees, four Vision Councils, and other UWGK initiatives and events, such as United WE READ, the Citizen’s Review Panel, and Week of Caring were represented. Fourteen UWGK member agencies were also featured: 2-1-1 Constant Contact, American Red Cross, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boy Scouts of America, Sequoyah Council, Boys & Girls Club, CASA for Kids, Children’s Advocacy Center, Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians, Girls Inc., Literacy Council of Kingsport, Meals on Wheels, Mountain Region Speech and Hearing Center, Salvation Army, and Small Miracles. A volunteer consultant was on hand to help match skill sets with needs in the community.
Four community volunteer speakers took the stage throughout the event, sharing how volunteering with UWGK in leadership roles had helped shape them personally and professionally. Brett Sago, Eastman Senior Counsel and UWGK Vice-Chair, shared that volunteering with the UWGK Administration Committee after moving to the area in 2004, “was a great way to get plugged into the community where I didn’t know a soul.” Expressing how volunteering affected him on a personal level, he stated, “No matter what faith you are, serving your neighbor is a tenant of your beliefs. Volunteering allows you to do something for others, and there’s a sense of pride and satisfaction that accompanies that.” He added, “There’s no question volunteering also introduced me to Eastman, as well as community leaders that I would not have had an opportunity to work with in my job.” Sago has volunteered with UWGK for 12 years.
Tianna Storey, Catering Manager for East Coast Wings and Grill and PEAK member, emphasized how her various volunteer roles with UWGK have allowed her a unique perspective in talking to other young professionals about volunteerism. “PEAK and United Way work closely together to get young professionals involved in volunteering.” Storey, who has served multiple years on both the UWGK Campaign Cabinet and Citizen’s Review Panel, shared that it was “fantastic to raise the money in Campaign Cabinet, then help distribute it through the Citizen’s Review Panel.” Storey was followed by Cheri Boykin, stay-at –home mom and longtime UWGK volunteer who currently serves on the Community Investment Committee. Boykin, holding up a stained Week of Caring shirt from years past, said it was the Week of Caring that had initially helped her connect with the needs in the community, seeing needs and benefits of volunteerism firsthand. She has continued her volunteerism, even as a busy mother. “I’m a mom on the go, and my kids have encouraged me to get more involved with all they have going on. Working with United Way gives me a ‘big picture’ perspective of everything that’s going on in the community.”
The last speaker was Edd Baldock, retired Eastman executive and UWGK volunteer. Baldock currently serves as Quality Committee chair and has served on the Community Assessment and Planning Committee and the Community Impact Cabinet. He shared how his skills from Eastman translated into new experiences as a volunteer. “I wanted something I could link into and understand with my background. I get to take my old skills and apply them to a new opportunity. I’ve also been pleased to get re-acquainted with people, as well as meet many new ones.” He also spoke to Kingsport’s recognition and appreciation of volunteerism, saying, “There’s no question you’re making a contribution to the community when you volunteer, but you will also see how meaningful and appreciated it is.”
UWGK Executive Director, Danelle Glasscock, thanked all for attending the event as well as the speakers who shared their stories, saying, “Without volunteers like them serving on our committees and our board, guiding our organization, and helping us connect with the community, United Way and our agencies here today would not be able to improve lives every day.”