Episode 45: Leading by Example - Heroines of Washington

As we celebrate a month of giving, we are honored to highlight one of our outstanding partners, Tamara Vineyard. Tamara was recently recognized for her dedication to community service as she was named a Heroine of Washington by the March of Dimes Maryland-National Capital Area. In this podcast, Tamara talks about her work in the community and why she chooses to give back.

Episode 45 Transcript

AGH: Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode of our DHG podcast series. I’m Alice Grey Harrison, your host, and I love this venue because we get to hear about the things that matter the most to us- flexibility, careers and of course, stories about our people. We are celebrating National Month of Giving and I’m going to highlight one of our outstanding partners, Tamara Vineyard. She leads by example in our Metro DC market. This year, Tamara was honored by the March of Dimes, Maryland-National Capital Area, as one of the heroines of Washington. She and other philanthropic leaders in the Metro DC area were celebrated at a recent gala. Heroines of Washington is one of DC’s most unique events, recognizing and honoring women in the Metro DC area for their dedication to community service. Since 2001, they have honored 94 heroines and raised more than $2.3 million to make sure that one day all babies are born full-term and healthy. We’re so proud of Tamara and the work she’s done in her community, and I’m really excited to have her with us today. Welcome, Tamara.

TV: Thank you, thanks for having me.

AGH: You and I had an opportunity to catch up before we actually sat down to record this and we talked about some of the charities that you do work for in your community. Can you share a little bit about some of the places that you volunteer?

TV: Absolutely. I work with a couple of nonprofits here locally as well as several projects within my church and the community where I live. The first one I work with is the Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capital. It’s the largest chapter actually in the United States, and I know everyone knows the Girl Scouts sell cookies, but what I love about them is that they provide various programs to really empower girls to be leaders as they become adults. I was a Girl Scout, my daughter was a Girl Scout, and when the CEO, who is just an amazing woman and really just gives her of her time to help with the girls, among other things that she does, I just couldn’t really say no when she asked. So I chair the audit committee and I’m on the board of governance for the Girl Scout of the Nation’s Capital. I also work with MVLE, which is a nonprofit that provides job placement opportunities and also day support for intellectually disabled individuals. I am the chair on the audit committee, I am also on the governance committee and I’m one of their board members. So I have attended several of the events that MVLE has hosted with their intellectually disabled clients and it’s just so moving to me to see how confident and happy they are because they feel like they are contributing members of their communities, just by having jobs and by just feeling a sense of connection. Then also within my church, I work on several projects. Most of them are related to my passion for kids, I’ve been a leader on several mission school trips with middle school kids and it’s really fun to see middle school kids and how they are changed by really giving back to others. For a lot of them it’s the first time that they’ve actually experienced that. That’s very rewarding, and then Grace Ministries, we open the church doors once a month to the community, which is largely immigrant, Hispanic population. We give them things that they need for free. We’ve got food, clothing, a lot of diapers actually. Last month we had over 500 people and families come through, which was just amazing. Then my last one, which is actually my favorite, is Backpack Buddies, which we partner with a local elementary school in Sterling. Their students, 75 to 80% of them are on free or reduced lunch. So they get food in school but may not have food on the weekends. So we pack over 200 each month with food for them to take home on the weekends and that is just one of my most favorite charities and it’s particularly fun for me because the little kids actually get involved in packing these backpacks. It’s very fun to watch them look and figure out how many of each items that they’re supposed to put in the backpacks. It’s very cute.

AGH: That’s so amazing. I really don’t know how you have time to do all that you do. I totally get why you are a heroine of Washington. One of the ones you mentioned was MVLE and when you and I talked, I was really intrigued by that because it’s such a unique organization. How did you get involved with this group, tell me a little bit more about that story?

TV: Sure, it’s actually very interesting. The first I heard of MVLE was when I received an RFP for their audit tax work. You know, as someone who works in the not for profit group, I sometimes receive RFPs for organizations I haven’t heard of before. So doing some of my research and background work to determine what they do and some of their projects and programs, I really learned a lot about them and I really appreciated the work that they’re doing with intellectually disabled individuals. I didn’t actually win the work because another firm came in with a lower price, but about a month later, I was asked by the executive director, April, if I would be on the board. That was over three years ago now. So I really enjoy working with them, and as I said previously, you know, watching some of these and meeting some of these individuals is just super rewarding.

AGH: I think that’s amazing. I’m always so, I don’t know, humbled, when some of the businesses here in town have mildly disabled people working there but I’m always just so humbled by their spirit. I mean, what amazing spirit they have.

TV: Absolutely.

AGH: Thinking in terms of giving back to the community, there are a million different reasons why people choose. But it is something that we encourage our young professionals to do for a lot of reasons. Can you talk a little bit about how getting involved in community and giving back actually is beneficial for their career progression?

TV: Sure, well I think it’s important for everyone at any age to get back to their communities. Not just because of what it does for their careers but also just what it does for them as people. You know, I started with my kids when they were young, a lot of us do that, to teach them really the importance of helping others who are less fortunate than we are and to just not take for granted that we are just so blessed. My kids today are both seniors at UVA and my daughter works with the better women’s shelter and my son works with a group of men who educate men’s groups about sexual assault and the importance of respect for women. It’s awesome to me to see that they've taken that throughout their college careers and hopefully will continue once they graduate. I think for our professionals, it’s really important because it also does help them professionally by getting out and meeting other people in the community because you just never know who could help you, you know, gain new work or just building the relationships with other folks and the community, you never know where your next referral source is coming from. It’s a great way professionally as well.

AGH: That’s true. The other thing that I’ve always felt like, for myself personally, and this is aside from the wonderful feeling that it gives me and, you know, all those really so focused things. I think that it gives an opportunity to really begin building leadership skills early. I mean, you know, early in my career I might not have been given the opportunity to lead a team with a business focus. But in volunteering, I was given the opportunity to lead and I learned a lot of skills and for me, that’s really valuable in terms of career.

TV: Absolutely. Also for those of your younger staff that are mentoring or coaching our brand new staff, it just gives them that sense of leadership that gives them the ability to then provide good support and recommendations to our brand-new stuff.

AGH: Absolutely. So if someone’s listening and they want to – they think, “Oh, I feel inspired, I want to go find something, an organization to give back.” What kind of advice would you give someone to help find the right fit for them?

TV: Sure, well one of the first things they could do is talk to their manager or their PPD, especially if it’s someone who works with not for profits like I do. You know, you can — we could work with you to help find a not for profit whose mission you’re passionate about. That’s really the key is finding something that you’re passionate about and looking for organizations like those to be able to give your time back to. Guidestar's actually another great way to find a charity to volunteer with. You can go to the website and type in, it’s free. You can go in and type in any subject that you’re passionate about, whether it’s animals or nature conservancy or working with veterans. The results can be filtered by your location. So you can go and figure out which not for profits are in your general location. It’s really not, I tell my staff, when I talk to them during their goals meetings about finding something they’re passionate about and giving back. Because it’s not just giving your money, it’s also that charities are really in need of volunteers. So go and volunteer your time. I can promise that they will, that if you do that, you will receive much more than, in return than you ever gave.

AGH: Absolutely, I totally agree. Well, I so appreciate your time today, I know you’re coming off a really busy deadline and not for profit deadline at that, right?

TV: Yes, absolutely.

AGH: Thank you so much for being here and sharing your story with us.

TV: You’re very welcome. Thank you.

AGH: Thank you every one for listening to Life at DHG, our premier podcast series. If you like what you just heard, we hope you’ll tell your friends and colleagues. Be sure to check out our DHG blog for more great stories about our Life Beyond Numbers. Join us next time for another edition of life at DHG.  

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