News: Louisville Business First, August 29, 2014

Viewpoint: Benefits of board service flow both ways

Friday, Aug. 29, 2014
By Lisa DeJaco

It’s a challenge for busy professionals to make time for board and community service. Expectations of clients, customers, shareholders and colleagues fill our work days, and we struggle to preserve a few hours with family and friends.

But the critical needs of our community are a surefire motivator to give back.

I was inspired to get connected with Volunteers of America of Kentucky about seven years ago when Don Kelly — one of my partners at Wyatt Tarrant & Combs and former chairman of Volunteers of America’s board of directors — invited me to learn more about the organization.

I discovered that Volunteers of America is the only organization in Louisville that provides real and lasting solutions for homeless families and veterans, people recovering from addiction, people with developmental disabilities, and those at risk of HIV. I was impressed with their success in helping people turn their lives around.

As a member of the board, and as board chairwoman since 2012, I’ve worked to advance the organization. Supporters of the organization invite colleagues and friends to join us at events, in the hope that they will become engaged in the organization.

Program tours and the annual Power of 1 Breakfast showcase the services Volunteers of America provides to our community’s most vulnerable people.

Aside from altruism, board service gives me the opportunity to strengthen my emotional intelligence, governance skill set and cultural competency. Serving on the Volunteers of America board offers tremendous learning and community-engagement opportunities.

The benefit of my board service flows both ways. Business professionals in fields such as law, finance and human resources provide skills and expertise to nonprofit boards. As a board, we helped usher Volunteers of America through a rigorous accreditation process in 2011 and will do so again this fall for reaccreditation.

Leadership changes also are on the horizon for Volunteers of America, and our board has been a part of the succession planning and transition process. My board colleagues and I elected Jennifer Hancock, who had been serving as chief operating officer, to succeed Jane Burks as president and CEO when she retires in March 2015.

We’re grateful for the impact Jane has made during her tenure, and we’re excited about the future of Volunteers of America under Jennifer’s leadership. It’s been gratifying to be a part of a meaningful, thoughtful succession plan that ensures a seamless transition.

Though Volunteers of America has been in business since 1896, it’s a modern and dynamic organization. Volunteers of America is embarking on a capital improvement project to support Freedom House, its addiction-recovery program for pregnant and postpartum women.

Funds raised through this campaign will provide an additional 12 beds for pregnant women — doubling the current capacity of the program — and ensuring that they deliver healthy babies.

Research estimates a $250,000 savings per family served through the program by preventing complications related to the mothers’ drug and alcohol dependency.

With nearly 90 drug-free babies born in the program since its creation, that’s an estimated $22 million in financial impact on our community.

As a board member and as chairwoman, I’ve had the chance to be a part of something that’s gratifying for me and transformative for my community. Look around and you’ll find there’s no shortage of need, and you’ll grow as a professional by giving back to a nonprofit organization that addresses a cause you hold dear.

Lisa DeJaco is a partner withWyatt Tarrant & Combs LLP.
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