In honor of Women’s History Month, we spoke to a few of our exceptional female leaders to get their thoughts on their careers, their communities, the women who have inspired them, and their advice to women trying to make it in the nonprofit world.
Pam Howe, a board member of Rebuilding Together Peoria, first got involved with Rebuilding Together through volunteering. After finding her volunteer experience so rewarding, she joined Peoria’s Project Selection Committee in 1995. She has been with Rebuilding Together Peoria ever since serving in several roles.
Amy Hoyte, Executive Director of Rebuilding Together South Sound, joined Rebuilding Together through what she called “a lovely mistake.” She quit her previous job during her maternity leave and was searching for an administrative job with a construction company. A friend of hers led her to Rebuilding Together South Sound. After a couple weeks, “Rebuilding Together South Sound became my second baby,” said Amy. And it’s been her second baby for 8 years.
Julie Smith, Executive Director of Rebuilding Together Central Ohio, saw her first Rebuilding Together project in 1996 while she worked with kids in social services. Her husband was one of the first volunteers her affiliate saw in 1991. She became the Executive Director in 1998.
All of these leaders have a story to tell about how a homeowner or volunteer affected them.
Two of Pam’s service recipients and their families come out to volunteer for Rebuilding Together Peoria every year on National Rebuild Day. She finds constant inspiration from them. “They have encountered circumstances beyond their control that leave them with physical or financial limitations. Such limitations have not jaded or impeded their willingness to help others, and I will not let the daily challenges or stresses in my life jade or impede me.”
A family Amy met in the beginning of her time with Rebuilding Together still holds a place in her heart. A couple with two teenage boys just had a baby born with severe disabilities. The mother quit her job to care for their child, which significantly impacted their income. The father had to ignore calls from work at night regarding mandatory overtime because they’d lose their Medicaid benefits if he worked too much, which was how they could afford the specialized food their child needed to eat.
“There was no way to describe the feeling in that house that day for me,” said Amy, a new mom herself at the time. “It hit home and I knew that I would be doing this work for a long time.”
Julie said her volunteers make it impossible not to be happy with her work when they are so happy to be there. “They’re talented and willing to share with each other and our homeowners. It’s the best training grounds for people who want to be homeowners.”
You Can’t Do it Alone
None of these women take sole credit for their successes.
“One role model has been Mother Theresa and her Missionaries of Charity vow to give wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor,” said Pam. “My professional role model has been my own mother, who successfully balanced family life and full-time employment at a time when female employment outside the home was not widely accepted. My Rebuilding Together role model was former Vice President for Affiliate Relations, Melissa Flynn, whose ability to convert passion into action I strive to emulate within my affiliate.”
Amy thanks her mother and teachers she had growing up for nurturing her and allowing her the opportunities to make mistakes and to learn from them. She also draws inspiration from Melissa Flynn and Amy Radachi in the Rebuilding Together Network for their long-term dedication to the cause.
Julie credits her father and her family for her success. Her sister has worked with Rebuilding Together as well for 9 years and her husband has been a constant volunteer.
Advice to Women Working in Nonprofits
“Seek out as many different types of experiences as possible at first, to help determine what it is that they are passionate about.” – Amy
“Embrace the cause and let it guide all decisions and actions. Surround yourself with talented people. Develop relationships with a diverse network of advisors and centers of influence.” – Pam
“Stick to your mission. Know your mission. You have to look at it like a for profit. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Nonprofit is still a woman’s world. It’s one place we are truly equal.” – Julie