Erin Loder is a now a member of our DHG Alumni Network. In 2019, she was the winner of our DHG Community IMPACT Award, which celebrates the impact our people are making across our communities through volunteer hours. In this spotlight, Erin discussed her passion and purpose for volunteering and some of the causes and organizations that hit close to home for her as a military family.
You dedicate an incredible number of hours volunteering and giving back in your community; talk about your passion and explain why you give back to organizations and causes that are important to you.
My passion for giving back primarily comes from how I was raised. I was raised as an “Army brat” and my father was deployed many times. We lived in a primarily Special Forces neighborhood, and we lost about 12 people in the neighborhood from the war right after 9/11. My dad luckily survived, but many of our close neighbors had family KIA (Killed in Action). These were prime years for me, and seeing how the community pulled together for these families was an inspiration. It really made me want to do the same for the rest of my life. Now, as a Navy wife, I want to continue that tradition within all branches of the military in any way that I can. Military families go through so much, and that is primarily my “why.” I focus a lot of my volunteer hours on programs such as Wreaths Across America, since we have friends and family that are buried there at Arlington National Cemetery. I also do a lot with Blue Star Families, which supports military families.
You mentioned that your family relocated several times, how do you manage to find time in giving back to the community?
As a military spouse, I have learned that frequent moves are common. My husband and I have been married for eight years and we have moved five times within that time frame. Each time we have moved, we have had to develop a new network and create new friendships. Both of our families live in UT, and because of that, the best way to connect and network with people is by being around people. We have found that when my husband starts a new command it’s helpful to find places where we can volunteer our time. Until recently, we did not have children, and it allowed a lot of time on nights and weekends for volunteering within our communities. Work is always going to be there, but I’ve found a way to manage my time and my internal DHG client needs so I can make the most of my time outside of work engaged in community service. My husband and I have met so many great people through community service and we find it to be such a blessing.
When you worked in two DHG offices, tell us about some of the fun things you and the IMPACT Committees did.
In the Tysons office, my all-time favorite thing was a summer kick-off party. We rented a dunk tank and had food trucks and yard games such as human “hungry-hungry hippos.” We closed the office to ensure that everyone could attend and had great fun while also incorporating an IMPACT theme to it by collecting donations for the Melanoma Research Foundation. The IMPACT committee offered raffles to people who donated or tried to dunk people in the dunk tank (yes, that meant dunking partners!). It was so much fun!
In the Norfolk office, we participated in the United Way Foundation month. Anyone that donated could participate in the Turkey bowl on our “Friendsgiving” day.
What did you enjoy most about receiving the Community IMPACT Award during the partner meeting in Nashville?
It was so amazing to be able to attend the partner meeting, to meet so many new people and learn about other offices. That was my absolute favorite part about receiving the award. Being able to network with people I would not have met was truly rewarding.
Do you have any other thoughts for others who are thinking about volunteering in the community but who aren’t quite sure where to start or which type of organization to seek out?
Just do it. I got started with Blue Star Families by searching for companies on Google that do military-focused volunteer work. I simply filled out a form online and was contacted by the local planning officer within the same week. I got started immediately volunteering at a family museum event. Most organizations that offer volunteer services have a form online to fill out to let their leads know that you are interested. It is that simple!
If there is something that you are passionate about, whether it be animals, military, children, schools, health-focused - you name it, it's out there! There are volunteer efforts all over the country - too many to count. I say, just go for it, and fill out the form online or pick up the phone and find out how to get started! It feels great to give back no matter how small, and you will be grateful you did!