Our United Voice

40 years: A Connector, Engager and Cheerleader.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mary Sullivan
Corporate Volunteer Engagement
It’s amazing to think about how my volunteer experiences - from the time I was 8 years old growing up in South Bend, Indiana until I was a college student at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan - prepared me for a 40 year career in volunteer management with Metro United Way.

What brought me to Metro United Way in 1975? I had a degree in Urban Studies (note that there was no degree in volunteer management back then, but there is today!) with lots of volunteer experience; my dad was an active volunteer for United Way in our home communities and suggested I send my resume to United Way Worldwide. I completed their intern program and landed a job in Louisville with Metro United Way. While there have been some tough times and challenges in my career, I’ve embraced the mission of Metro United Way and the community that adopted me.

A few highlights? 

 1) Connecting people in crisis to services. For example, help for job loss in plant closings, flights for medically fragile children or adults, disaster assistance for floods, ice storms, and the 2012 tornado in Henryville, Indiana.

2) Managing corporate donations to help our community. We’ve connected UPS transportation to deliver heat pumps from GE to over 50 partner organizations, distributed tickets from UofL (before they had winning teams), smoking huts from GE that are now in a variety of locations serving as green houses and safe bus stops, and most recently,149,000 donated books for children in our region so they can read and learn. 

3) Engaging and celebrating volunteers. I was honored to oversee the volunteers cheering along the route of the 1996 Olympic Torchbearers, manage the Metro United Way/Churchill Downs Run and Fun for 10 years, oversee 13,000 volunteers who came from around the world to help with March2Recovery efforts in Southern Indiana, and actively gain local and national recognition for many of our volunteers and staff. 

Of course, there have been numerous changes over the years. My favorite is the growth in strong commitment and engagement of an increasing number of corporations in our region for their employees to volunteer to help improve lives! When I started at Metro United Way, few corporations allowed their employees to volunteer on company time, and now that has changed dramatically. It’s exciting when my phone rings and someone says, “My company wants us to do a volunteer project!” I am so glad to be in the position I am today to help both new and seasoned employee groups find the right volunteer opportunity for them.

40 years later, I’m so glad Metro United Way took a chance on the shy, quiet, first female graduate of the United Way Worldwide intern program in 1975. It’s rare that someone is fortunate enough to be able to combine their personal passion with their work and enjoy their career as much as I do! Today I’m proud to say that I am a connector, engager, and cheerleader for our community thanks to Metro United Way. To those who ask me: “Are you still at Metro United Way after 40 years?” I say a resounding “YES!”

Mary Sullivan is Manager, Corporate Volunteer Engagement for Metro United Way. She joined the organization in 1975 as Planning, Allocations and Campaign Associate and in 1976 became the Coordinator of the Voluntary Action Center which began her 40 year career in volunteer management.

Mary is an active volunteer in the Louisville community with various organizations: Junior League of Louisville (President  2004-2005), Habitat for Humanity (Builder, Board Member and Nominating Committee), and St. James Catholic Community, (Co-chair of Social Outreach, Coordinator of Habitat builds, and Welcoming Host). She's also volunteered with Project WARM, Repair Affair, Jefferson County Public Schools, Susan B. Komen, Volunteer Center National Network and The Points of Light Foundation National Advisory Board, and the Kentuckiana Association of Volunteer Administration. 

Mary is the proud recipient of the Spirit of Louisville/WLKY Bell Award, and the State of Indiana Governor’s Voluntary Action Center Program Directors Award. She is a graduate of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Mary has 6 nephews, 3 nieces, 7 great nieces, and 4 great nephews, all who she spoils equally with love, books and ice cream. Mary is a Hoosier by birth, and a Notre Dame, Lady UofL Cards and Bellarmine fan.

1 comment

  1. Nobody makes connections like Mary can! So lucky to have her.


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