Live United by Erin Haag
Kathy was one of the first people I met when I started my job. At first it was admiration for her bright smile, sense of style and fabulous jewelry. We later became friends through cute dogs. It took me a while to understand her role as a community engagement with Mayo, but she quickly became someone I could go to to process different situations and get a broader view of my perspective. In turn, Kathy was interested in our work and loved the idea of the Community Investment Committee. She became increasingly involved in our work, joining our Board in 2020 and serving as Executive Officer this year. The nature of her work overlaps in many ways, and she and I have served on several committees together.
Kathy retired from Mayo a few weeks ago and will be greatly missed by all. This new chapter in her life takes her out of the area, a big change for this lifelong Albert Lean. We thank Kathy for all her hard work on the Board and wish her and her family all the best. We look forward to her coming back and visiting us, a promise she made and I intend to make her keep it.
The last few days have been beautiful with the cooler weather and breeze. It refreshed everyone and everything including my garden. I had a call asking how many green beans we’re getting this year. I can tell you that my kids have really taken the lead in bean picking with their friends who come here a few times a week. The first time they picked they filled four sand buckets, and the other two times they filled a five-gallon bucket. As I write this article from my home office, I’m watching her out the window and working to fill another bucket. We can do the rest in the morning and I think we’ll end up with about 20 quarts. We’ve given away quite a few and the kids have been eating them faster than they can be washed and prepared for canning. Just as I was looking out the window, my son was standing there eating all the mangetout instead of helping his sister pick the beans. I haven’t let snow peas find their way into the house yet.
It makes me smile every time I get a call asking about something. I get calls about my green beans and calls about someone suspected of being homeless. I’m getting calls about a senior they suspect is in isolation or food sources. Last year I had a woman call me to ask the name of the downtown consignment store. She remembered New to You, but couldn’t remember the name of the Mary-Go-Round and wanted to call them. It keeps life interesting and connects us to our community. If people think of me about green beans and call United Way for the garden report, that’s okay. Because if they need help, or know someone who needs help, or if they’re willing to donate, volunteer, or advocate for them, they’ll remember United Way and call me for it.
In the past week I’ve spent a lot of time talking to a lot of people. A board member came by after work was done to see if I needed anything. Two other board members contacted me by phone to catch up and a third shared lunch with Nikolle and I. I think there is a sense of urgency, a realization that along with this cooler weather, time is passing quickly and the transition to the school year and fall is just weeks away. I know I definitely feel it. At our last board meeting, there were talks 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 depends on the community – taking the time to get involved, donate, get involved, volunteer and more. We have opportunities for short term commitments serving on a committee or even our larger board. I truly believe that there is an opportunity for everyone to serve in whatever way feels best and I hope we make it easy. We love building a relationship with our volunteers and learning what touches their hearts and inspires them. From staffing a booth at Safety Night (9th August) to being served in our Welcome Pantry (23rd August) to our upcoming Winter Gear Drive work starting in late September early October, we have great opportunities for groups to come together and serve together . The upcoming school year is something like New Year’s Eve – it’s a great time to renew yourself and your sense of community towards commitments. It’s an opportunity to get out into the world and experience what’s out there. If you are interested in learning more about opportunities, call Nikolle, Heidi or me at 507-373-8670. In the meantime, keep an eye out for all of our upcoming events – including a save the date for September 24th. Hope to see you on the road this fall!
Erin Haag is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.