> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
All it takes is time and a passion.
It doesn’t even matter what that passion is because organizers of local nonprofit organizations will find an outlet for that energy. But they are looking for the people to volunteer.
One Southern Indiana couple, Michael Stewart and his wife Susie Stewart, epitomize that effort and are looking to reach out to involve the next group of people who want to see their community thrive.
“I just feel like I’ve been blessed with a lot of help, with a lot of people in this community and I want to give back,” Michael Stewart said.
He has been working with the United Way of Southern Indiana for more than seven years and is serving as the regional campaign chairman of the Southern Indiana United Way, which serves Clark, Floyd and Harrison counties, this year.
Susie Stewart serves on the board for the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana, the Women’s Foundation of Southern Indiana and the Clark Memorial Hospital Foundation Board.
“We are people who have time to give and have a passion for our community,” she said.
And they are trying to find others that they can bring on board.
Susie Stewart explained that she got involved with volunteer organizations through her father, who was a trustee at Clark Memorial Hospital and introduced her to the hospital’s volunteer board.
And once she started volunteering she realized it was something she relished.
“I really enjoyed donating my time,” she said. “It’s kind of a selfish thing, I think, because I enjoy the feeling I get from it.”
And working with one organization led her to the next.
“One thing rolls to the other,” Susie Stewart said. “Once you meet people who are in non-profit you kind of trade off and work with each other.”
Michael Stewart became involved in a similar manner. He was involved with Rotary International and was recruited by friends to be a part of the United Way of Southern Indiana.
He said it was his turn to step up this year and serve as the southern Indiana campaign chairman. Among his goals this year is to draw more attention to the organization and get a new group of people involved.
To get that new group of people involved, Susie Stewart said it first falls to the people who have been a part of the organization for a while.
She said it takes some older members to bring on new and younger members to the organizations, so the tradition of helping the community is not lost.
“It’s up to us as board members to inform and be ambassadors for these organizations,” she said. “You have to find people that have a vested interest in the board you’re creating [and] identify people with a commitment to that cause. It takes a really good sales pitch. You have to find people that like to give of their time. If you pass it on to the next person, then it’s just like a domino effect,” she said about getting others on-board.
To find those people, Susie Stewart said that it is important to have community leaders, so others in the community are aware of these organizations.
She pointed to her husband, who is trying to get the word out while he is at the helm of the Southern Indiana United Way.
“They have to tell people more about what they’re doing and what they’re doing it for,” Michael Stewart said of the United Way. “They’ve been behind the scenes for a long time.”
His plans this year have included launching a special events team and a community event planned for Hoosiers in April that will mirror the give-a-day effort in Louisville.
“It’ll be something businesses and organizations can get involved with,” Michael Stewart said.
He added it doesn’t cost any money, which is one of the hurdles charities are trying to overcome.
“There [are] so many people soliciting funds...we want to try and give to everything,” Michael Stewart said. “It just keeps getting harder and harder.”
With all the requests for help, he said that is one of the reasons he decided to get more involved in the United Way.
He explained that he liked the outreach of the organization because it touches a broad range of other area non-profits. Among the United Way’s supporting agencies in Clark, Floyd and Harrison counties are the American Red Cross, the American Cancer Society, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Kentuckiana, Boys and Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana, LifeSpan Resources Inc. and the YMCA of Southern Indiana among others.
He added the United Way requires something back. People have to come in and present their case for donations, and it holds other organizations accountable for the spending of funds donated.
“That way I feel like I’m touching them all,” he said of other charities.
The tornadoes that struck the northern portions of Clark County on March 2 showed the willingness of the local community to get involved.
But Michael Stewart said, “the tornado is a small part of what they do.”
Following the tornadoes, the United Way served as the organizing arm for the volunteer force that aided in the cleanup effort.
Becki Rucker, regional donor relations director with the Metro United Way, said in the weeks and months following the disaster more than 10,000 volunteers signed up to help.
Michael Stewart said that effort accounted for $900,000 worth of people’s time.
“That does not include monetary donations.”
Rucker said the United Way is inexorably tied to the need for volunteers.
“We could not do what we do in the community without having our volunteers,” she said. “We could not have the successes we have without having volunteers. Whatever someone’s passion is they can connect with that passion.”
It’s encouraging people to give time, money and advocacy and it is enlisting those that are passionate about doing the right thing for their community,” Michael Stewart said.
“Somebody we know has used it, and somebody we know will need to use it in the future,” he said of an outreach organizations.
And sometimes there is an unintended consequence to getting new people involved.
“I got to see how much they care and how much they have passed on to make people’s lives better,” Michael Stewart said. “It really inspired me. [Volunteers] look at this as a social movement for people to get involved in their community.”
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
All it takes is time and a passion.
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