2019 Volunteer of the Year Spotlight
This fall, KYC was thrilled to specially recognize the extraordinary efforts of two dedicated volunteers as the 2019 Volunteer of the Year and the 2019 Young Volunteer of the Year, a new award to celebrate a youth volunteer (stay tuned for a spotlight for our youth volunteer, coming soon!). Each of their contributions has helped shape the course of KYC’s programming as they worked to provide better service and better outcomes for our community members.
2019 Volunteer of the Year: Donna!
Although she has earned a relaxing retirement after a challenging career in IT leadership, Donna has channeled her skills and energy to serve her community through multiple KYC programs for the last 12 years. The former Chief Information Officer has her daughter, Lisa, to thank for connecting her with her post-retirement service through KYC. Lisa wanted to ensure that Donna had projects to work on after she finished her professional career. So, she recruited Donna as a volunteer at KYC’s former resale shop, where she began to build relationships and a greater understanding of KYC as a whole.
Finding Her Niche
Donna’s work at the resale shop turned out to be just the beginning of her dynamic volunteer career at KYC. Although she has held a variety of volunteer roles within KYC, Donna found her niche in helping clients with their financial concerns.
Finances and Fixing Lightbulbs
Through her previous volunteer roles, Donna was connected with Jean in Kenneth Young Center’s Older Adults division. Jean manages the money management program that provides guidance to older adults as they navigate the complex financial aspects of aging, and she invited Donna to volunteer through that program.
As a money management volunteer, Donna began working one-on-one with older adults in the community to help them take control of their financial situations. She works with two to three clients at a given time, and regularly meets with each of them individually in their own homes to evaluate their budgets, needs, and opportunities to lower expenses. She reviews their financial documents and helps clients apply for public benefits and tax programs that help save them money. She also reviews payment schedules to ensure that accounts stay on track. She has learned that sometimes simply changing the payment due date of a recurring bill can make a huge difference in a client’s ability to keep their accounts current. She has helped clients who were once overwhelmed by debt collection calls begin to feel less stressed, less stuck, and more free.
Typically, the clients that Donna sees have little to no family support, so Donna becomes one of their connections to the community. She often goes above and beyond her duties as a financial counselor to ensure that the people she serves are living as well as possible. She has helped frustrated clients hook up their TVs correctly, and she’s helped them recycle the old stacks of paper they’ve been meaning to clean up. She connects them with appropriate KYC Services or the Village Nurse when they’re not feeling well and don’t know where to turn. She has even arrived at an appointment with a new role of toilet paper when she heard that her client had just run out. Donna understands that replacing a burnt-out lightbulb relieves the client’s immediate stress, and allows them to settle in and focus on their planned financial tasks.
More importantly, these small acts of kindness show her clients that she truly cares for them as people, not as just sets of financial line items to reconcile. She builds honest, valuable trust. Personal finances are just that — very personal — and so it’s important for her clients to trust that she has their best interests in mind. As her clients learn that they can rely on her, they often share more information and more personal history. Sometimes that additional information can translate into additional avenues of savings for the client that would never be uncovered by a standard checklist of interview questions — all because she took the time to fix that loosened lightbulb.
Growing Programs and Growing Impact
Donna is also graciously dedicated to serving clients through KYC’s behavioral health programs. Donna’s daughter, Lisa, leads KYC’s community living services team and supports clients who live with mental health challenges. Through her work, Lisa saw a need among some of her clients for extra support to ensure the payments for their monthly living expenses could be made reliably. Lisa enlisted Donna to help build a representative payee program to solve this problem for qualifying clients. Through a representative payee program, KYC is able to take over managing a client’s benefits in order to pay for their living expenses, like rent and utility bills, for people who are unable to manage their money on their own. This allows the client to have stability as they focus on their treatment and recovery.
Not only did Donna help create an efficient, sustainable process to get this program up and running while meeting the state requirements, but she still devotes her time to execute this process today. Between volunteering for the money management program, the representative payee program, and lending a hand with additional administrative projects around KYC, she has made an incredible impact for the many clients she serves.
Words of Wisdom
Donna has helped create programs, initiate procedures and efficiencies, and has been an exceptional advocate and caring resource for the clients that she serves. Her work is a clear and vibrant example of how important our volunteers are to the services that KYC provides.
Donna offers a few words of advice to anyone who is interested in getting started on a volunteer service journey — just get started! Get your feet wet, try out something new, and if you don’t feel like you’ve found the right volunteer role for you, there are other opportunities to find a role that fits you. Initially, Donna never thought she would be working directly with clients. Now, after working so closely with them, she sees the incredible impact that KYC’s programs can make in the lives of the individuals she has helped. She reflects that little by little, you can make a big difference.
KYC is honored to recognize all that Donna has achieved and her dedication to serving our community members over the last decade. Congratulations to the 2019 Volunteer of the Year!