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United Way's Volunteer Engagement Coordinator attends Points of Light conference as recipient of Sara Ballard Award Scholarship

Photo by John Noltner

Lindsay Fujimoto, United Way of Thurston County’s Volunteer Engagement Coordinator recently attended the Points of Light Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Points of Light Conference is the world’s largest service-related convening, bringing together 2,000 nonprofit, government, business and civic leaders to gain and share the knowledge, resources and connections needed to galvanize the power of people to create change.

Fujimoto was able to attend as a recipient of the Sara Ballard Award Scholarship, a fund that awards scholarships to people attending the National Conference on Volunteering and Service who have only two to three years of experience in the field of volunteerism. Ballard’s life was devoted to service. The Williamston High School and Alma College alum worked for the Volunteer Centers of Michigan, the American Red Cross and was the executive director of the Volunteer Center of Lewis, Mason and Thurston Counties in Olympia, WA.

When Sara suffered a stroke and died at the age of 36 in 2011, her parents, Jim and Nancy, thought the best way to honor their daughter was by establishing an endowment fund in her name that gives other young people the opportunity to learn more about the power of service.

“As a young professional heading up the United Way of Thurston County’s volunteer engagement initiatives, Points of Light’s Sara Ballard scholarship made it possible to learn not only from individuals who are at the top of their field nationally and internationally, but also from other volunteer engagement professionals like myself, who ranged from being in their first weeks on the job to decades in this line of work. As the coordinator of an AmeriCorps VISTA team and major events like Day of Caring, I attended sessions that focused on improving the volunteer experience and developing awareness around a culture of service,” says Fujimoto.

“Within the volunteer experience, there was one major recurring theme—equity. In both the breakout sessions and the opening and closing events, numerous speakers highlighted the need to move towards equity in our volunteer base. As noted by presenters from KaBoom!, we must distinguish between diversity, inclusion, and equity,” says Fujimoto. “In our work, focusing on equity will move our diversity and inclusion goals forward and we must remove the barriers that are currently in place to make that possible. Without this focus, we will “perpetuate the cycle of poverty that threatens our nation’s economic future.”

“Another common theme across the conference stemmed from awareness of service and how we as volunteer engagement professionals and the broader community can promote a culture of service. As presenters from the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service said, “National service is America’s best-kept secret.” From the perspective of an AmeriCorps VISTA program coordinator, this assessment is spot on, as we consistently work to raise awareness of our program. It was encouraging to have a forum to discuss what changes can be made to increase not only awareness of service but also access to service opportunities,” says Fujimoto.

“Points of Light was a tremendous learning opportunity and I am so thankful that the experience was made possible by the Sara Ballard scholarship. I am excited to bring what I learned back to United Way of Thurston County to improve our volunteer engagement efforts as well as continue to promote a culture of service throughout Thurston County.”