Six months is not enough. That’s what Eleanor Smith thought after she finished serving her first term on the Our Kids board.
She had been matched with Our Kids by the Young Leaders Council, which trains young professionals in Nashville to help lead nonprofit boards. She spent six months as a non-voting board member, learning about the organization and how it benefits the community. After her time was up, she knew she wanted to continue to help Our Kids make a difference in the lives of children and their families.
“The mission to help kids and families facing child sexual abuse is so powerful,” says Smith, who is now serving her third term as a board member. “I really loved the organization and felt like I could make a difference.”
In her 13 years working with Our Kids, Smith has done that, taking on a variety of roles that have combined her skills in marketing with a deep commitment to the cause. She has served as both president and vice president of the board as well as chair of the marketing committee. She is also an ambassador for several annual fundraisers including Soup Sunday, which she chaired in 2015.
Support from all sides
Smith credits the team of people around her for providing encouragement as she continues to find new and innovative ways of promoting Our Kids and its mission.
“The board and volunteers are compassionate and selfless,” she says. “They’re doing it all completely behind the scenes. There is no immediate gratification in this role — none of us has ever met a single child that has come here because Our Kids is sincere about protecting their privacy. But staff always makes sure we understand the impact we have, and that makes it so rewarding to be involved.
“I think that’s one reason Our Kids has so many repeat board members, volunteers and sponsors. Most people, once they get involved, get totally invested and want to stay on in the future and continue to give their time and support.”
Board members foster a sense of community by keeping in touch on a regular basis and forming relationships beyond their roles with Our Kids.
“The board spends a lot of time together, and we have such a good relationship with the clinical staff. I’m so grateful for that,” Smith says. “You hear these touching stories about how we are reaching children and their families. It makes you want to keep going.”
Paying it forward
That spirit of generosity has extended to other areas of Smith’s life. As Managing Director of the Corporate and Healthcare Practice Groups at Bass Berry & Sims, she encourages her colleagues to get involved in causes that matter to them, not just professionally, but personally. And Smith’s friend owns a lawn and landscape company, Southern Seasons, which has provided Our Kids with free lawn care for the last seven years.
A mother of three, Smith believes the knowledge that she has gained through Our Kids has made a tremendous impact on her family as well.
“I feel absolutely prepared and confident now that I can address the issue to the best of my ability,” she says. “My work with Our Kids definitely affects how I parent my children, and it’s opened my eyes to many things, most recently to online predators. Now, I can talk to my kids about sexual abuse, and they know that if they tell us something, we will believe them. I wouldn’t be able to do that without Our Kids.”