Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I was them, and that is why I love them...


People often ask me the same question over and over again - "why do you choose to serve or work in the nonprofit sector?"

The answer is easy, Jesus asks us to serve the least of these... But the answer also goes deeper than that for me. I used to be them.. I was the least of these. I was part of the those I serve, and this great big amazing loving community lifted me up in my time of need. How can I not give back to a community that has given so much?

I think about all the things that have happened over the past few years and I can see God's plans weaved all through my ups and downs..



Just a few short years ago I became a single parent.  If you know me, you already know this.  What you may not know is that in that season I had to sit my pride aside and receive help and support.

I was a full-time student and worked two jobs, but still struggled to make ends meet.  I was lucky enough to receive grants and scholarships for school because of my academics and income bracket.  That helped... a lot.  I was given a scholarship from the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County, who went above and beyond just helping with educational costs but also surprised me by sponsoring my children and I for Christmas one year.  I will never forget the tears as they hit my cheek when I went to pick up items they had collected for us.  In humilty and grace I embraced their love for all the years up to that point I had been able to sponsor children in need, and then there we were.  Yet, they embraced me with such dignity and respect that I never had a reason to feel poor, or ugly, or used, or worthless.  They helped me realize I had purpose... My purpose was my children and working to improve my life and theirs.

Beyond this help I was able to get my son in a free Pre-K program that we qualified for so that I had one less childcare expense.  This school was also amazing for us!  Then the pin dropped... I had been involved with serving at the Samaritan Community Center as a volunteer for their snack packs program.  One Friday as I picked up Jake from school here he came with one of the very snack packs that I had helped pack the week before.  Again, humbling... It made me realize how incredible these types of resources were for children and families.  He would get so excited, and to this day he loves going back and volunteering or donating his allowance money to this program. 

I was also part of a program called Career Pathways that helped me with my textbooks for school and gas vouchers to and from.  I was given scholarships from the PEO, the Willard and Pat Walker Foundation, the Walmart Foundation, William Randolph Hearst, the Dean of the College, and many many more.  People supported me in ways unimaginable and I managed to make it through college with little to no out of pocket expense.'

I am now remarried and the Director of Development and Marketing for an organization that serves single parents in Northwest Arkansas.  How much more gratifying can it get?!

So, why do I serve?  Why would I serve?  Because I have known what it means to need, and I have also known what it is like to have plenty.  God commands us all to serve the poor, the oppressed, the fatherless, the widow.  We each have a story.  So before you believe that everyone who needs help is milking the system, please stop... The needs in this community are real, they are huge, and we all have a part to play in giving back.

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