Live United: United Way is looking for more volunteers to help

Published 8:45 pm Friday, July 29, 2022

Live United by Erin Haag

Kathy was one of the first people I met when I started my position. At first, it was an admiration of her bright smile, her sense of style and fabulous jewelry. Later on, we bonded over cute dogs. It took me a while to understand her role as community engagement with Mayo, but she quickly became someone I could go to process different situations and get a wider lens on my perspective. In turn, Kathy became interested in our work, and loved the idea of the Community Investment Committee. She became more and more involved in our work, joining our board in 2020, and serving as an executive officer this year. The nature of her work intersects in many ways, and she and I served on multiple committees together.

Erin Haag

Kathy retired from Mayo a couple of weeks ago and will be sorely missed by everyone. This new chapter in her life is taking her out of the area, a major change for this lifelong Albert Lean. We thank Kathy for all of her hard work serving on the board and wish her and her family well. We look forward to having her come back and visit us, a promise that she has made and I intend to harass her into keeping. 

The last couple few days has been beautiful with the cooler weather and the breeze. It’s refreshed everyone and everything, including my garden. I had a call asking about how many green beans we’re getting this year. I can tell you that my kids have really taken the lead on picking beans with their friends who are here a couple times a week. The first time they picked, they filled four sand buckets worth, and the other two times they filled up a five-gallon bucket. As I write this article from my home office, I’m watching them out the window, working on filling up another bucket. We’ll can the rest tomorrow morning, and I think we’ll wind up with about 20 quarts. We gave away quite a few, and the kids have been eating them faster than they can get washed up and prepped for canning. Just now, I glanced out the window to find my son standing there, eating all the snap peas instead of helping his sister pick the beans. I have yet to have snap peas find their way into the house. 

It makes me smile every time I get a phone call asking about something or the other. I get calls about my green beans, and calls about a person that is suspected to be homeless. I’ll get calls about a senior they suspect is isolated, or about where to find food. Last year, I had a woman who called me to ask me the name of the consignment shop downtown. She remembered New to You, but she couldn’t remember the name of the Mary-Go-Round, and wanted to give them a call. It keeps life interesting, and it connects us with our community. If people think about me because of green beans, and they call the United Way to find out the gardening report, that’s OK. Because when they need help, or they know someone who needs help, or they’re ready to donate, volunteer, advocate, they’ll remember United Way and they’ll give me a call for that.

This past week, I’ve spent a lot of time talking with a lot of people. A board member stopped by after his workday was done to check and see if I needed anything. Two other board members reached out to me via phone to catch up, and a third spent lunch with Nikolle and me. I think that there’s starting to be a sense of urgency, a realization that along with this cooler weather, the time is going by fast, and transition to school year and fall is just a short few weeks away. I know I’m certainly feeling it. At our last board meeting, there were conversations about strategies to be implemented in 2024! 

With this cooler weather, long-term strategies and an ever growing list of ideas to implement, we’re always looking for more volunteers. The success of United Way is reliant on the community — taking the time to step up, donate, advocate, volunteer and more. We have opportunities for short-term commitments, serving on a committee or even our larger board of directors. I truly believe that there’s an opportunity for everyone to serve in the way they feel best, and I hope we make it easy. We love building a relationship with our volunteers, learning what engages their heart and inspires them. From staffing a booth at Safety Night (Aug. 9) to serving at our Welcome Pantry (Aug. 23) and our upcoming work with the Winter Gear Drive starting late September, early October, we have great opportunities for groups to come and serve together. The approaching school year is sort of like New Year’s — it’s a great time to renew commitments to yourself and your sense of community. It’s an opportunity to get out into the world and learn about what’s out there. If you’re interested in learning more about opportunities, give Nikolle, Heidi or myself a call at 507-373-8670. In the meantime, be on the lookout for all of our events coming up — including a Save the Date for Sept. 24. I hope to see you out and about this fall! 

Erin Haag is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.