We Have Moved.
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September 28, 2007
Living and working in Greater New Haven her entire life has provided Sherese Ward with the opportunities to learn that caring about others is what really matters. She has always been passionate about volunteering and is currently on the Board for the YMCA, the Board of Higher Heights, a grant reviewer for the Community Foundation, and is working towards creating a young African American professionals group.
“I think, as a young professional, that any conscious person has a responsibility to give back,” said Sherese. “Everyone should care about the well-being of their community and United Way provides the opportunities to show how much you care.”
Sherese is employed by a large corporation in New Haven as the market development coordinator, which includes tasks like philanthropy fundraising and grant distributions. When the opportunity for involvement in United Way’s 2007 Grant Review Process presented itself, Sherese was compelled to become involved.
Her favorite aspect of the Grant Review Process was having a partner with whom she could learn and explore the various non-profit organizations, and she found that meeting new people helped her to gain new perspectives. “I could just listen to everyone talk and deliberate, and it would make me question and reform my own opinions,” said Sherese. Not only did Sherese reform her opinions, but she became more aware of her surroundings. During the Grant Review Process, Sherese found that there were many more organizations that do “wonderful things” than she had ever realized through her prior experiences. As a Grant Review participant, she had the opportunity to meet the “movers and shakers” in the community and discovered all of the things that people are trying to do in order to make a difference. She explained that we can all see the community’s challenges on the news, but we do not see nearly enough of how people are helping each other in amazing ways.
Before volunteering as a Grant Reviewer, Sherese became involved with United Way through Days of Caring, when she organized a group of employees to participate in a volunteer project. “United Way is such a staple in any community, said Sherese. “It is a life line and the reason that many non-profit agencies exist. Every year, employees are encouraged to give to the annual United Way Campaign and it truly creates awareness in the community about the non-profits. United Way provides so much support. I don’t know what we would do without it, especially in a tight-knit community like New Haven.”
Through the Grant Review Process, Sherese established an even stronger sense of community and seeing others work so diligently reinstilled the passion she has for her hometown.
Seventy-five volunteers and nine United Way of Greater New Haven staff members participated in the 2007-2008 Grant Review Process. The reviewers were responsible for reading and evaluating 8-10 applications as well as conducting 2-4 site visits. Applications were assigned to a volunteer based upon expertise, interest, and avoiding conflicts of interest. Each of the 126 applications that were received from Greater New Haven non-profit organizations were reviewed by at least 5 volunteers. In the end, $1.5 million dollars was distributed to non-profit organizations in Greater New Haven.
Market Development Coordinator for Bank of America
How long have you lived and/or worked in Greater New Haven?
My entire life, 27 years.
What specific United Way programs/committees have you been involved with? When?
The Grant Review Process for 2006-2007 and I have organized groups of employees from Bank of America to volunteer for Days of Caring.
Why did you choose to be a part of the Grant Review process?
I do very similar things for my job, working with the community, determining grants, and I became involved with United Way through my affiliation with Bank of America. My boss had been a part of the review process in the past and asked if I would step in and take his place on the Success By 6 reviewing committee. He knew that I was interested in the community and I felt that the process was my opportunity to become even more involved.
What made you want to be involved?
For me, so much of what I do is similar to what United Way does. I work with non profits all the time and provide grants from Bank of America, but we have very specific criteria. There are so many more organizations than I realized, that aren’t eligible for grants by the bank, but do such wonderful things.
How did the process impact your views of the community?
I became so much more aware of what is going on around me. I now know who the movers and shakers are and what people are trying to do to make a difference. We all know the problems, we all read about it, but you don’t always know what others are doing to help.
How do you think the community has benefited from United Way?
United Way is such a staple in any community. It is a life line and the reason that many non-profit agencies exist. Every year, Bank of America employees are encouraged to give to the Annual United Way Campaign and it truly creates awareness in the community about non profits. United Way provides so much support, I couldn’t imagine New Haven without it.
Was there any part of the process that you found particularly rewarding?
You were partnered throughout the process and it was wonderful to hear the opinions of someone from a different background. I was partnered with a woman who works in the non profit sector and I truly gained new perspectives from working with her and the others.
This might sound silly, but what stands out most in my mind was being in the presence of truly informed people who are so passionate about their community. I could just listen to them talk and deliberate and it would make me question and reform my own opinions.
In what other ways are you involved in the community (outside United Way)?
Community Foundation Grant Reviewer, on the Board of the Y, on the Board of Higher Heights, and my friends and I have started a young black professionals groups, which we are trying to get up and running
Why should others become more involved in the community and with United Way?
I think, as a young professional, that any conscious person has a responsibility to give back, not necessarily as much as I have, but something. My experiences have also shown me how many volunteer opportunities there are. Everyone should care about the well-being of their community and United Way provides the opportunities to show you care.
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