A grass-roots event that began in 2002 with 50 women who responded to a call to build a Habitat for Humanity house for a single mother has blossomed into an annual event: Women’s Service Day. The spirit of giving—time, talent, and donations—in the West Michigan community is alive and growing.
The planning crew focuses the day of service to women and children on these goals:
- Making a difference in our community—and having a great time doing so
- Increase awareness of issues for women and children in the West Michigan community
- Promoting networking among women in our community
The event is an opportunity for volunteers to offer their time, skills, and talent to several nonprofit organizations in the Holland/Zeeland area. We’ve cleaned and organized, painted and finished, landscaped and weeded, cooked and baked, washed windows, assembled lesson plans and materials, organized and led after-school activities for middle school girls, and made cards for families with loved ones who are terminally ill or living in nursing facilities. Over the years we’ve had the event, we’ve had as many as 150 women participate for some part of the day!
How does a group of women manage to pull off a community-wide day of service with so many volunteers each year and still remain friends? When all of them have a common goal—building community, building awareness, and networking—as well as common traits—compassion, respect, and commitment—it’s easy. Add to that some organizational and planning skills, and you can call it success. They rely tremendously on teamwork as well as the skills each planning team member brings to the group. Read about the strength of our members to see how each complements the others.
Nancy Corvers is supporting our fundraising raffle and auction, which means she’s also recruiting donors for this critical part of our lunchtime program. That makes good use of her experience merchandising her own sewn items at craft shows. Like a number of us on the planning crew, Nancy had a long career at Herman Miller. After retiring, she spent a few months in Hawaii as a volunteer, and continues in that spirit with the children’s ministry at her church–when she can be distracted, that is, from her love of sewing!
Marcia Davis writes for her day job at Haworth, Inc., so writing for Women’s Service Day is a comfortable fit. From volunteer communications to blog posts, she’s behind the scenes crafting our messages. Marcia is also the team secretary for our Planning Team meetings. And, on event day, you’ll likely see her out getting stories with a photographer as part of the “paparazzi” crew.
Cindy DeGraaf is a customer engagement representative at Herman Miller, Inc. In her job, she faces and solves new challenges daily while taking care of retail clients looking for guidance in furnishing their home offices. She’s using her master project management expertise as our agency liaison. She’s communicating with local agency representatives to help determine task assignments, keeping in constant touch with registration, and ensuing that our volunteers have meaningful and impactful tasks for the day of the event.
Lois Maassen is our team leader and mistress of networking, which continues to surprise her, since she thinks of herself as an introvert. Her background in communications and management was good training for always keeping our objectives in sight. When she’s not asking, “How hard can it be?” she’s doing business consulting and communications through Hedgehog Arts & Letters, LLC—or knitting, baking, or rereading Jane Austen.
Angie Martin is a proposal manager at Herman Miller. On our team, she utilizes those management skills to chair the Events team that designs and plans the event itself, including the delicious lunch, donation drive, raffle/auction, and documentation of the event. Angie strives to be the Leslie Knope of whatever she does because it’s important that we make our communities better for everyone. Her favorite Knope quote? “One person’s annoying is another’s inspiring and heroic.”
Planning an annual event isn’t all about work. Although we kick off each year’s planning session in April, six months ahead of Women’s Service Day, many of our meetings are held over dinners that often include wine. During our years together, we’ve celebrated retirements, weddings, births, birthdays, divorces, promotions, and adventures. A few weeks after the event we always hold a “lessons learned” meeting and then come the holidays, so we celebrate our friendship and good work with good cheer and some gift giving. Usually by February we start going into withdrawal from not seeing each other so sometimes we even start our next year’s planning a little early.
What it comes down to is trust. We rely on each others’ strengths and the relationships we’ve built as a team to get things done.
There are other women who have served countless hours throughout the history of Women’s Service Day. We honor them with “emeritus” status and enjoy their ongoing friendship and participation during the event.
- Waltraud Beckmann
- Sue Gadbois
- Cheryl Murdoch
- Carrie Ypma