(Note: United Way is sharing Loyal Contributor stories as part of our 90th anniversary celebration and will continue beyond 2013. If you have a Loyal Contributor story to share, please contact the United Way News Center).
Ruth Rawlings-Banks has been a loyal contributor to our United Way for over 35 years. Since 1975, Rawlings-Banks has been a United Way Leadership Giver, helping the organization’s work to improve local education, financial stability and health at high levels of support.
Rawlings-Banks is the coordinator and chairperson for Cargill’s Adopt-A-School initiative and its Feed the Needy program. She is also a member of Local 1529 United Food & Commercial Workers. Her work with these and other programs over the years has given her insights into the joys of giving.
She once thought that tithing at church was sufficient to meet the idea of “giving back,” but then she was introduced to United Way’s network of care through a company where she was previously employed.
“We took tours of two United Way partner agencies,” she said. “One of the agencies housed battered and abused women. There was a woman there who had bent limbs but talked about how she was able to make ceramics despite her physical challenges. The other agency helped abused children. When we were walking through the second agency, this little boy being helped by the agency walked up to me. I gave him a quarter. The child followed me all over the tour. That’s one of the things that made me want to become a United Way Leadership Giver.”
Rawlings-Banks said seeing the agencies and, more importantly, seeing where her gifts go and how they help changed her whole outlook. She knew that giving to United Way meant her charitable contributions were being used wisely.
Rawlings-Banks’ giving also led to getting more people in Memphis and the Mid-South involved with United Way. Through the years she has worked for several companies where she could help introduce people to United Way through morale boosting and fun activities to spread awareness of fundraising campaigns. As a valued employee at Cargill Memphis Corn Plant, she enjoys getting her coworkers involved in the United Way campaigns.
“I’ve been able to work with management very closely to get people involved,” she said. “Where we were 19 years ago compared to where we are today – there’s a big difference. It has been a long journey, but it has been a journey I have enjoyed.”
Rawlings-Banks said she has seen how the leadership of United Way has changed and made great strides with those changes. For example, when she began supporting United Way in the 1970s, United Way did not have its own program for engaging local youth. Today, the Youth United Way Leadership Program teaches teens that giving back has its own rewards. She also noted the importance of the 2-1-1 help and referral phone number (a partnership between United Way and the Memphis Public Library system) which connects people with needs to information about programs and agencies which may be able to offer assistance. She also noted the creation of the Loaned Executive program, which partners representatives from local companies with United Way staff, working together to create results in the fundraising drive across the entire region.
“United Way is there to help and that is what I like about United Way,” she said. “I look at United Way like the insurance I have to protect my car… it’s good to have that sort of insurance to protect our community, too.”
(Note: United Way intern Linda Thomas contributed to this story.)