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Looking to volunteer? United Way makes it simple

Amy Millhorn Leonard • May 5, 2019 at 10:30 AM

Each April, the country celebrates National Volunteer Month. Locally, United Way of Greater Kingsport makes volunteering simple through the website: www.volunteerkingsport.org.

“United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in our community. We cannot do this work without the power of volunteers coming together to support the work of nonprofit organizations,” says Becca Sutphen, the Community Impact Director for United Way of Greater Kingsport.

Whether it be helping with children, teens, the homeless, families, animals, churches, education, a particular cause or something else close to your heart, there are many wonderful volunteer opportunities available.

How can you find your opportunity? Visit www.volunteerkingsport.org where you can access and learn about the many volunteer opportunities available in our community. They can be filtered based upon your interests, distance, events calendar, organizations, etc. Volunteering just a few hours a month can greatly impact those in need.

“Through volunteerkingsport.org we hope to give every person in our community and across the region easy access to volunteering,” Becca said.

Three longtime volunteers - Cheri Boykin, Edd Baldock and Alan Freeman – are prime examples of the difference individuals dedicated to serving can make in the community. With their expertise and talents, like many others, these volunteers give their time freely for rewards that far surpass mere monetary value.

Cheri Boykin began volunteering about 10 years ago when she and her family moved to Kingsport.

“It is very important to give back to your community when you can. People in different seasons of their lives who have different talents and interests can volunteer to make a big impact by giving just a few hours of time here and there,” Cheri said.

When her children were preschoolers, Cheri felt it was very important to introduce them to volunteering. They began by making baked goods for Kitchen of Hope, a soup kitchen started 25 years ago by Pastor Geraldine Swagerty inside Full Gospel Mission in downtown Kingsport. Kitchen of Hope serves meals to those in need every Monday through Saturday between 3:30 and 5 p.m. Later, the family began helping with cooking and serving of meals and Cheri now serves on their steering committee.

They also began volunteering at Community United Methodist Church’s “Terrific Tuesdays,” a program where kids from the surrounding area are brought in on Tuesdays for a meal and Bible study.

“Seeing volunteers interacting with those in need and hearing their stories is very rewarding,” Cheri says. “You get so much more than you give as a volunteer.”

For the past five years, Cheri has been volunteering with UWGK on its Community Impact Cabinet which decides on the allocation of funding for different projects throughout the community.

After retiring from Eastman Chemical Company in 2007, Edd Baldock transferred his career skillset as an engineer and facilitator in company improvement and training areas to volunteering in the community.

“I had a great professional life, good family and many good things happened in my life, so I wanted to give back,” Edd explains. For four years, he volunteered with Junior Achievement and was there to help when their focus shifted from helping students make and sell products to interactively teaching them economics and business operations through partnerships between business professionals and teachers.

Because of a chance meeting with the executive director of United Way of Greater Kingsport, Edd was invited to serve on UWGK Community Assessment and Planning Committee.

“We try and identify new initiatives in the community, where there are needs or problems that need to be solved or that need new programs or more financial support,” Edd explained. One program started based on those needs was “United WE READ” – an early reading program through to help kids learn to read proficiently before third grade. The United Way of Greater Kingsport became more supportive of “Life BRIDGE,” a KHRA partnership aimed at helping non-self-sufficient adults become self-sufficient using life coaching, training and job seeking. Additionally, they co-sponsored Friends in Need to launch a mobile dental clinic called “Appalachian Miles for Smiles.” Edd has also served on the UWGK Quality Committee as Chairperson and Vice Chairperson and says, “Serving with the United Way is an excellent way to give back to the community. I got involved and stay involved because of the satisfaction of seeing those we help, getting their thanks and being able to network with wonderful people in the community.”

In 2016, when Alan Freeman was contemplating retirement, he was approached by a friend about volunteering for United Way of Greater Kingsport. He chose to volunteer there because he realized that his contribution of capabilities and time would best support deserving needs in the community. It turned out to be an excellent fit for Alan.

“I have found that my volunteer role has become a very interesting and rewarding part of my life now,” says Alan, who currently serves on the board of directors, is chairperson of the Quality Committee and on the Community Impact Cabinet.

How can you have an impact on your community? Volunteer. Simply go to www.volunteerkingsport.org, sign up and experience the impact of giving back today!