For many people, it’s an honor to serve as a United Way coordinator for their company, a role that involves spreading the word to colleagues about what United Way does for the community and encouraging them to support it through donations and volunteer work.
For Maggie Dickerson, however, her response to being asked to take on the job was closer to pure delight. “I did not hesitate,” remembers Maggie, who works for Regions in the Shreveport/Bossier, Louisiana area. “I was jumping up and down and clapping. I really wanted to give back in some way, so I took it and ran with it.”
She was also excited about the opportunity to meet more branch associates—a perk of the job, as she and her campaign coordinator from United Way, Catherine Simpson, spent every morning last November visiting area branches. Catherine would give a presentation about United Way and its partner organizations in the community, after which Maggie would add extra encouragement for people to get involved. “It never got boring for me,” she says. “I was really fired up to do it.”
Later on, Maggie was invited to a United Way luncheon where several companies were recognized for additional fundraising and volunteer efforts. It planted a seed in Maggie’s mind that she wanted to set her sights higher—specifically on the annual United Way of Northwest Louisiana Day of Caring—a one-day, community wide volunteer event that allows local United Way donors and companies to do hands-on work with the organization’s partner agencies.
With the same energy she brought to visiting area branches to talk about United Way, Maggie set out to approach other associates about taking part in the next Day of Caring set for March 18.
“I knew I already had three or four people who would jump on board, but we needed a team of at least 10,” she explains. “So I just thought through the people that are on the two floors that we occupy, and I didn’t even send them an email—I went and saw every one of them face to face and said, ‘This is what we’re doing, and I want you to come.’ Nobody said no.”
Catherine says the day begins with about 400 volunteers gathering for a kick-off breakfast before heading off to over 40 nonprofits to start their day of service. “Our main purpose is to help get work done for the nonprofits,” she explains, “but also to expose people who usually spend all day in the office to see the good work these groups do.”
Maggie’s team chose to work with the Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana, which collects and distributes food for needy individuals free of charge. The Regions team—along with teams from two other local businesses—was charged with organizing food donated by area stores and boxing them into care packages for the elderly.
Maggie’s colleague and friend Ouida Salter says it was a great opportunity to get to work with her fellow associates in a completely different environment. “We had a friendly, competitive spirit about it, and you got to see different aspects of people’s personalities,” she remembers. “It was like, ‘Oh, you’re not going to pack boxes fuller than mine! I’m going to finish more boxes than you!’ It was a fun experience.” In total, the volunteers at the food bank packed over 200 boxes of food, each containing a well-balanced selection intended to feed a local senior citizen for one month. Maggie says they all stopped to consider the challenges these elderly persons faced, trying to afford groceries, let alone being able to get to the grocery store. “It was kind of heart wrenching to think, ‘This is what they have to survive on this month—this box of food,’” she says. “It made me think carefully about what I was putting in, to make sure they were getting things I would want, too.” At the end of the day, the United Way threw a party to thank all the volunteers and celebrate what they’d collectively accomplished.
Maggie says her team already plans to participate in the next Day of Caring when it occurs next spring. Ouida echoes the sentiment. “Maggie’s enthusiasm was contagious,” she says. “We all want to be a part of it now and can’t wait for the next opportunity.”
Maggie Dickerson is a Regions associate in Shreveport, Louisiana.