Written by Liberty Ferda
In this season of thankfulness, we want to highlight a few of our board members. These are people who do the behind-the-scenes work of guiding decisions for the organization, approving budgets, planning fundraisers, suggesting ways to communicate our vision, that kind of thing. They take the time to attend meetings that can be several hours long, when needed. Here Melanie and Diane tell us why they give such dedication and commitment to Open Hand.
MELANIE is a certified public accountant and a corporate lawyer who discovered OHM earlier this year and joined the board in March. She came to us through our partnership with the Bayer Center for Non-Profit Management. She grew up in southwestern PA and currently resides in Cannonsburg.
What drew you to OHM? It was their passion for the people in the community, their caring and commitment to helping families, and I love how the families remain part of the community even after they’ve moved into their own home—they might stay involved and become allies to encourage others. To me it’s like forming a bigger family and keeping everyone close knit, looking out for one another and helping out. It’s more than being just a good neighbor but becoming a family.
I come from very small family—maybe that’s one reason why this interests me—it’s not something I grew up around. I like to see people helping one another and being friendly and knowing who lives around you.
How have you enjoyed being on the board so far? It’s been fantastic. Such a wonderful group of people who get you excited about the mission of OHM and just want to put energy toward it. It’s amazing to me how wonderful Michael, Tammy, Jodi, Tim—everybody is. I can’t say enough good things about it actually.
How do you hope to use your skills to help OHM? I could help with drafting contracts or answering legal questions. Also, because I am a CPA, I could help design a budget to use alongside existing financial resources in Circles.
DIANE is a retired engineer who has been volunteering with Circles for three years but just joined the board in 2017.
What part of OHM/Circles are you grateful for? I’m grateful for how it’s opened my eyes to some of the issues in the community and how it gives me the opportunity to get to know some really great people.
In Circles, I’m currently paired with a 26-year-old college student who is trying to overcome some financial issues and doing well. She’s been able to pay down some debt will be graduating from graduate school this December. She recognizes things that can lead to debt and is actively working to prevent that.
Why are you so committed to Circles/OHM? Because I see it as a highly effective way to make a difference in people’s lives. There are a lot of band-aid programs out there, but for the long term this really makes a difference. I’ve been involved in other things like hurricane relief and you go in and you get people back in clean, decent, safe living situations, which is essential, but this works on helping people realize that they have value and helping them see ways to improve their circumstances. Often they have the ability but don’t necessarily have all the tools and encouragement that they need. OHM-Circles offers both—not only relationships, with volunteers and others who want to improve their situations, but also the tools for how to do that.
The other thing is it’s not a magic bullet—it requires a lot of hard work and dedication but the leaders have a really good chance of getting somewhere better if they do it.
What have you learned through the process? I look at race relations and poverty in our country in a very different way. I grew up in predominantly white area and go to a predominantly white church. A lot of people think that poverty is due to laziness or unwillingness to work hard, but what I see is that a lot of these people work harder than many well-off people I know and they are not lazy. But if they didn’t learn some of the financial skills from family and friends that many of us had the fortune to learn or they didn’t have opportunities to get a good education to get a better job, they kind of get stuck in jobs that are brutal.
We are thankful for Melanie and Diane!