“As humans, we need to make connections and feel that we are bringing about positive change. Volunteering offers both opportunities.” These are thoughts shared by Cathy Ryan Sherman, our August 2018 Volunteer of the Month. Nominated by Betty Cordellos of Norwalk Community Health Center, we are thrilled to honor Cathy and share her story.
A lifelong volunteer, Cathy’s first major commitment was with the Domestic Violence Crisis Center in Norwalk almost 30 years ago. At a brainstorming meeting, she suggested a silent and live auction as a fundraiser to benefit the organization. Cathy then became one of the event co-chairs. At the time, she also worked for her husband and they had a young son at home. Responsible for soliciting local businesses to get donations for the auctions, she went all over town with her son in tow to get the job done. Her hard work and success on that event led to her joining the board of directors and serving two consecutive terms.
As a long-time Westport resident of 30 years, Cathy has donated her time to many community organizations. She joined the Westport Young Woman’s League and when her kids started school she volunteered at school events, created a school newsletter and did publicity for the district. With her kids in school during the day, she went back to work, but that didn’t stop her from continuing to find meaningful projects to participate in when she had free time. She became a volunteer reader for a second-grade class at Beardsley School in Bridgeport and volunteered at PAWS in Norwalk taking care of cats. When a close family member was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, Cathy was connected with the young man who founded the Intense Intestines Foundation. She was moved by the work this young man, who also suffers from Crohn’s disease, was doing through his foundation so she helped manage their social media in 2017.
About a year ago, Cathy moved from Westport to Norwalk. She was missing the community connection she had with previous volunteer projects. Looking for the chance to work with a group of people toward a common goal, she began researching her options.
Her research led her to VolunteerSquare.com where she created a free profile, checking off lots of boxes that included her skills and interests. Impressed with the significant number of opportunities where she could utilize her skill set on a regular basis, she saw Norwalk Community Health Center’s post looking for volunteers for their newly formed development committee and thought it was a great way to offer her expertise in her new community.
The development committee meets weekly to share ideas and plan events like National Health Center Week and Vine to Wine, their inaugural fundraiser this past spring.
Bringing years of experience with advertising and communications to the group, Cathy contributes by managing Norwalk Community Health Center’s social media and publicity. Now in its second year, the committee is preparing again for National Health Center Week 2018 (Aug 12-18) which includes a theme for each of 4 days: Moving Monday; Community Partners Tuesday; Food For Thought Wednesday; and Back to School Thursday. In addition, NCHC’s first ever fundraising walk, Ready Set Walk to Prevent Childhood Obesity, is on Sept. 23 at Calf Pasture Beach.
When I asked Cathy what she likes best about volunteering with NCHC, she said she loves the sense of humor of the group, which makes it fun. “And of course, there is intelligence and talent to go with those senses of humor!” Being part of this group gives her the opportunity to do what she loves, and also to utilize and expand her skills. Additionally, she’s always been interested in the health and welfare of people and animals and her volunteer projects reflect that.
Her contribution to the Development Committee over the last year has been invaluable. Betty Cordellos, Director of Development and Communications, raved about Cathy’s work with NCHC. She was instrumental in gaining online viewership and in-person participation for last year’s NCHC’s week-long celebration of National Health Center Week, for NCHC’s 2018 FCCF Day of Giving campaign, and for NCHC’s first Vine to Wine fundraising event in May 2018 and she’s currently preparing for this year’s events. “Besides her creativity, she brings logistical management skills to our committee. We are so fortunate to have her enthusiasm, ability, and passion for our mission and did I mention, she came up with the names for both our fundraising events?”
When I asked Cathy to sum up what volunteering means to her, several things came to mind including the sense of purpose and accomplishment she feels when giving back. She loves the teamwork aspect, noting that collaboration helps fuel everyone. With each volunteer project, she’s made new friends with people that she wouldn’t have otherwise met, and she’s been able to use her skills to make a difference.
A true inspiration, you won’t be surprised to hear that Cathy’s final thoughts about how to encourage people to volunteer came back to connection. “One of the ways to become connected in this technological age is with community work. Volunteers of all ages can benefit from hands-on work, face-to-face contact and a shared sense of purpose.”
On behalf of Volunteer Square and Norwalk Community Health Center, we want to thank Cathy for her outstanding service and for inspiring others to give back to their community too. Congratulations, Cathy!