Walking the Talk

Guest post by Brianne Fitzgerald, ‎Corporate Relations Manager at United Way of Central Iowa

Are there days when you think to yourself: “I need to get out of my desk and be face-to-face with those that I truly want to work with and help make a difference in their lives.”

All of us who work for a non-profit organization understand why we come to work every day and work as hard as we do. Sometimes we wear multiple hats and cannot find enough time in a day to get everything accomplished that we need to do to move forward and ultimately help our clients. You have an important role in your organization that requires you to focus on a part of the bigger picture.

For me, I’m in a development role in my organization. I am blessed with the opportunity to meet with fantastic people who care enough to give a financial contribution to my organization so we can continue to provide the necessary resources to those in need. We all know that there are so many barriers that play a role in living a financially stable life, going back to school or graduating from high school, securing a good job that pays well, and even having healthy food at the dinner table. My job is to help spread that message and build our community by investing in those that can help everyone break down those barriers.

However, there are times when even my day-to-day job doesn’t provide me with an opportunity to meet these people in our community who need our support. All around our community there are opportunities to raise money for organizations that we know are out supporting our community, but how many times do you have a chance to stand up, stand out, and reach out your hand to directly help another?

I want to share with you an experience that has forever changed the way I look at the community where we live and the people that I work so hard every day to support. Last fall, I participated in a volunteer opportunity with my own organization called the Graduation Walk. I partnered up with a Des Moines Public School employee to travel door to door to students who have either dropped out of school or might possibly drop out of school (due to low credits or attendance) to ask them if they want to come back or find ways to help them get the support they needed to finish school.

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Dropouts stand to earn, on average, $707,400 less over their lifetime than their peers who graduate. People who do not graduate from high school are four times as likely to be unemployed, five times more likely to become incarcerated, and six times more likely to be teen parents? Adding the loss of income and the human service costs, every dropout represents a million dollar problem – and I was excited to be a part of the solution.

All of us who work for a non-profit also know the power of an ‘ask’. This ‘ask’ can be of someone to give money, advocate for a cause, or volunteer for your organization. The ask is POWERFUL. The same idea applies here. We asked them to finish school, and showed them that the community cares about them, their family and that they are successful.

I spent four hours out of my Saturday morning – away from my three kids and husband – and entered into a world that not many people have the opportunity to step into. The neighborhoods these families live in, the condition of their homes inside and out – all the way down to the personal challenges they face mentally, physically, and emotionally – was indescribable. I went home that afternoon and just sat there for a few minutes in my driveway staring at my house, my kids playing in the backyard, and even the car I was driving. I walked into my home and just sat down and found myself with tears coming down my face. We all work hard each and every day to provide support to those that meet the needs of our organization’s mission. Some of us get to see what I just described every day. Most of us do not. We hear about it, read about it, and know it exists. We all know that it sometimes just takes one person, ONE PERSON, to change the life of another. So here’s your chance…

United Way of Central Iowa and the Des Moines Public Schools are teaming up again this year to host the Graduation Walk. YOU have the opportunity to experience what I did.  Join me on Saturday August 23rd and change YOUR life. For more information or to sign up please visit: www.unitedwaydm.org

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