How do seven women manage to pull off a community-wide day of service—with more than 100 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.
That’s what has happened with Women’s Service Day, which began as a grassroots initiative to do good in our local community.
It all started with a women’s build project in 2002. These seven women—Waltraud Beckmann, Marcia Davis, Cindy DeGraaf, Sue Gadbois, Lois Maassen, Cheryl Murdoch, and Carrie Ypma—all worked at office furniture manufacturer Herman Miller in West Michigan. When 50 women responded to their call to build a Habitat for Humanity house for a single mother, they had to quickly find other tasks for volunteers to do since all 50 people couldn’t work at one house.
Seeing such an outpouring of volunteerism, the group couldn’t let it go by the wayside. Every year since, they’ve been organizing a women’s day of service in the Holland/Zeeland community.
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.
Once a researcher, always a researcher. That’s what we’ve learned about Waltraud Beckmann, who has done tons of research for Herman Miller. Now retired, she spends her time helping young people learn how to be innovative. And she lends her researching skills to our team. Waltraud is also in charge of our annual donation drive.
Marcia Davis was a writer at Herman Miller until she left to start her own freelance writing business, Chez Marcita, LLC. As a writer, her primary role on the team is communications. From emails to press releases to blog posts, she writes most of the copy people read. During our annual event, one of her favorite things to do is join the paparazzi team as they go around town taking photos of the good work volunteers are doing. Marcia tries to capture the story behind every crew assignment.
Cindy DeGraaf is a Senior Marketing Manager at Herman Miller. A master project manager, she is always in charge of our Women’s Service Day lunch. From recipe analysis to portions to shopping lists, she manages every aspect of our menu, the shopping crew, and the kitchen staff during the event.
Sue Gadbois stays balanced between the tech world and the creative world. As an information technology training specialist at Herman Miller until her retirement, she helped people understand how to make sense of computer applications. On the creative side, she can make one heck of a mosaic—that is, when she can pull herself away from Pinterest. For Women’s Service Day, Sue helps manage the tech side of our communications process, tends our email inbox, and co-manages the silent auction/raffle fundraising event we have each year.
Lois Maassen is our 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.
Cheryl Murdoch is a Marketing Lead at Herman Miller. She handles all Women’s Service Day email marketing communications and recruits donations for our silent auction/raffle fundraiser. On the day of the event, she co-manages the auction/raffle and also captures the good work happening around town as part of the paparazzi.
If ever there were a queen taskmaster, Carrie Ypma’s the one. As a former project manager at Herman Miller, she keeps our team on track during meetings and behind the scenes. A natural diplomat, Carrie collaborates with the agencies and partners we work with to provide assignments for volunteers on our annual day of service. She’s also our primary social media manager. If it’s “liked,” posted, shared, or tweeted, there’s a good chance Carrie did it for our team.
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 withdrawals 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.