Paths taken

It is almost eight years ago to the week that Jennifer Tolle Whiteside and I were in serious conversations about the possibility of my becoming the Director of Community Leadership.  I must tell you that the title in and of itself was just about all I needed to accept this position. This blog is a reflection on my work in North Carolina and my career here.

A pivotal part of my past will help explain. I came to NC as a VISTA volunteer (Volunteers In Service to America) to spend a year working on adult literacy in Robeson and Scotland counties. I had never been to the south except for Miami, FL, and I really didn’t count that as a real southern experience, would you?

I was young, idealistic, ready to roll up my sleeves and had no idea that hush puppies were something you ate, not a type of shoes — or that a toboggan was a winter cap and not something you used to go sledding.

I had no idea about a lot of other things that formed the path that I chose — or perhaps that the path chose me.

The impact that year had on me was profound. The opportunities afforded me by people in the community were priceless. Like our affiliate board members and fundholders here, the community welcomed me into their homes, helped me learn new skills, discover my values and appreciate the pride people had in their rural community. I learned a great deal from community leaders.

Fast forward and here I am many years later, and I can say the same things about my 7 ½ years at the Foundation. I have had the privilege to practice new skills, reaffirm my values and be inspired by the love people have for their rural communities. The Affiliate Blueprint for Success is the body of work that has resulted from the work of many hands (my colleagues, the affiliates and our amazing Regional Directors). The Blueprint has provided a roadmap for our affiliate network as they build strong boards, inspire philanthropy and serve as effective grantmakers and catalysts for community needs.

As I prepare to retire from the Foundation, I’d like to share these reflections:

There is one quote that I want to share that was said by an affiliate board member about why he served on the board and is a donor. It has stuck with me because it says so much about our mission and why I have been so honored to be the Director of Community Leadership:

“The NCCF gives us an opportunity to leave a legacy. We’re painting a portrait of what can be, and it’s connected to what we love.”