Community service is an integral part of my life and has been since my college years at Hampton University.
While in college, I tutored elementary school students in basic math and English, and visited veterans at the local VA hospital just outside of campus. It felt good to care about more than just the next exam or the big “Union Party.” To witness a young student make progress in spelling after trying really hard was energizing. To see the smiles on the faces of disabled veterans, whose minds were often lost in troubled memories, warmed my heart. Now, more than 20 years later, I find it just as important to think beyond my own needs and hectic schedule to find ways to positively impact the lives of others. Every minute counts. Every effort counts toward healthier, happier, and stronger communities.
Like the firm’s late Founder Susan Hager and many of my colleagues, I am committed to take time, which is precious, to make a difference in lives that are significantly more precious. Here’s a snapshot of the ways in which Hager Sharpers helped improve the lives of people on Make a Difference Day in October, and other times throughout the year:
Walk Away Cancer
Jennifer Wayman and her family participated in Walk Away Cancer, a fundraiser for Children’s National Health Center. Walk Away Cancer was founded by Jennifer’s oldest son’s friend, who battled osteosarcoma throughout middle school. He’s now a senior at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, MD, and has run this event for the past three years to raise money for medical treatment and research for other kids facing childhood cancer. This year, the event raised more than $50,000; throughout the past three years, it has raised more than $120,000.
Get Out the Vote
The shoppers at a Saturday farmers’ market in downtown Silver Spring were surprised by a large group of women in pantsuits assembling to dance to Beyoncé’s song Run the World (Girls). Hager Sharp’s Darcy Sawatzki (far left) was part of the flash mob and supported Get Out the Vote efforts by reminding registered Maryland voters that early voting started on October 27.
Darcy Sawatzki and I took part in an evening get-together of Generation Hope sponsors to share strategies for mentoring our scholars. Generation Hope matches former teen parents with scholarship funds and one-on-one mentorship to help them successfully graduate from college. Hager Sharp is sponsoring several students this year. In addition to Darcy and myself, Roshni Devchand and Bonnie Powell also serve as mentors throughout the year.
Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop
Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop uses books, creative writing, and peer support to awaken DC youth incarcerated as adults to their own potential. On a quarterly basis, Hager Sharp staff gather at lunchtime to review work by these young poets, and provide feedback and encouragement. In October, a team of Hager Sharpers wrote messages of hope and provided notes regarding the 13 new poems, which dealt with themes ranging from loss, loneliness, family, activism, change, and hope.
Girls Scouts of the Nation’s Capital’s Women Advisory Board
Hager Sharp has a longstanding relationship with the Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capital, dating back to the volunteer efforts of Founder Susan Hager. Now, Debra Silimeo is co-chair of the Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capital’s Women’s Advisory Board. Girl Scouts helps girls build courage, confidence, and character, and learn the importance of making the world a better place. Supporting the Girl Scouts helps girls and young women learn leadership skills that will benefit them and our country for years ahead. In addition, the organization supports diversity and inclusiveness.
Last year, Debra organized an event at the National Press Club to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts’ highest award, the Gold Award, which girls earn by developing and managing community service projects. The event helped shine a national spotlight on these good works, and Hager Sharp sponsored a Gold Award intern, among other activities. In addition, Debra has participated in Camp CEO, a special summer camp for teen scouts to meet professional women from many walks of life. They learn about the many different careers they might pursue, and the challenges and triumphs that led the professionals to where they are today. Best of all, the professional women get to meet incredible young women, and spend time with them.
We Feed Our People
We Feed Our People provides hot meals, warm clothes, and toiletries to homeless and underserved residents in the District of Columbia during the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend. I had the pleasure of working with over 100 volunteers at the Howard University Law School cafeteria to prepare and distribute meals to over 300 people through my service as president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council of Washington, DC, a partnering organization. The food and items were distributed at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library and the Children of Mine Youth Center, Inc., on Monday, January 16, 2017.
Hager Sharpers are committed to their families and clients, as well as to their communities, which have endless needs. We recognize that there are always opportunities for service, we just have to make the time to do it.
Some 29 years ago, while seeking membership into my service-oriented sorority (Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.), I came across a poignant quote that I believed then and still believe to this day. Jonas Salk, inventor of the Salk vaccine against polio, said, “I feel that the greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more.” If everyone took advantage of the endless opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others, we would all be healthier, happier, more compassionate, and live in stronger communities.
Kimberly Varner, M.A.
Senior Account Supervisor