Marilyn, my CIC co-chair at United Way, said yesterday, "I don't see how they are going to do all this [carry out an ambitious proposal] unless someone on that staff grows a gill."
I burst out laughing. Brandon, our United Way president, gave her this look and repeated, "grow a gill?" And with Marilyn's statement and our responses, I knew we had officially crossed into United Way March Madness.
As I wrote last year, for those of us who volunteer as Impact Team members for United Way of Delaware County, March is not about tournament brackets, Cinderella teams, or the Final Four. Rather, it is about reading funding proposals, two weeks of agency site visits, and team meetings that run up to three hours while we discuss the merits of the proposals.
Today was Day Two (and the final day) of those marathon team meetings.
As a warm-up exercise both days, Tracy, who is Community Impact Manager for United Way, had us go around the room, introduce ourselves, and throw out one word that described the Impact Team process:
The Impact Team process is all of those words and more. It is an uplifting and humbling experience. Every year I come out of March in awe of the strength of this community.
I also come away punch drunk from the wackiness that envelops those of us closest to the process. Prior to this week, our volunteers conducted agency site visits. Yesterday and today, some 30+ volunteers reviewed 39 proposals over the course of four separate Impact Team meetings. Marilyn, Brandon, Tracy, and I attended all four meetings, read all 39 proposals, and between us, made sure that at least two of us (one CIC co-chair and one staff member) attended each site visit.
Little wonder we all get a little tipsy on United Way March Madness.
There was a lot of laughter yesterday and today. We get silly. This morning when Tracy gave her word, "grateful," she added "for all of you volunteers," then threw out "I love you guys!" in an Academy Award winning baritone. I looked at Brandon, who had yet to give his word, and said "top that." Rod, who works for Nationwide and is a veteran volunteer himself, pointed out the role Red Cross fills at local disasters, such as house fires. "Who's the first on the scene?," Rod asked, before answering, "Besides a Nationwide adjuster, that is." Another volunteer opined how unsettling it was as to how much personal information could be gathered easily from the internet. I said, deadpan, "I know. I look you up all the time!" Marilyn, describing an agency site visit and some of the volunteer comments, said, "well, it wasn't like acid reflux when we suggested it."
I'm going to miss United Way March Madness.
This is my fifth and final year as an Impact Team volunteer. I've had a long tenure, by local United Way standards, and I am grateful for that. I've loved it. I've loved getting to know my community even better than I had ever imagined possible. I've loved working with so many other volunteers from all parts of the county and many walks of life, some of whom have become friends beyond our United Way confines. I've loved serving as CIC co-chair, despite the extra hours and extra commitment.
I will help lead the CIC meeting in mid-April, at which we make our funding recommendations, and I will make the presentation to the United Way Board the last Monday in April. And then I'm done. It will be time to pass the senior leadership into Marilyn's steady, capable hands. Like me, she will be fortunate beyond words to have Brandon and Tracy alongside her for next year's Impact Team process. And Marilyn has an excellent sense of humor, which will serve her well.
When my friend Kermit is truly impressed by someone's character, he will say, "there are not enough words in the dictionary to adequately describe" his admiration of the person. I'm going to borrow that phrase from Kermit as we ring down the curtain on our March United Way season. Brandon, Tracy, and Marilyn, there are not enough words in the dictionary to adequately describe my admiration and gratitude for your commitment and energy. You, and all the Impact Team volunteers, have made yet another March a success, and I have been fortunate beyond words to have shared the experience with you.
See you April 17.