By Stephanie Fritsch, Volunteer, Moms Helping Moms Foundation
Judi Meighan and Meredith Carpenter never meant for their volunteer efforts to lead them to their dream jobs. But it did.
Meighan, 60, who lives in Bridgewater NJ, was introduced to Moms Helping Moms (MHM), a nonprofit in Warren, NJ, when she participated in a corporate volunteering day. Founded by a group of concerned and compassionate mothers, MHM provides critical essentials, such as diapers, wipes and formula, to parents who can’t otherwise afford them.
The average unit price of diapers has skyrocketed during COVID – up 14 percent year over year in January 2021 – and continues its uptick. Even before the pandemic, a major study cited one out of every three mothers in the U.S. cut back on basics, including food, heat, electricity and child care, in order to provide enough diapers for their children. As a mom of two, it was a cause that Meighan felt she could become passionate about.
“I’ve always been a volunteer and am especially attracted to grassroots organizations,” says Meighan. “I immediately fell in love with MHM and its mission. This small foundation was serving more than 100,000 individuals and distributing more than 600,000 diapers each year. I was so impressed.”
Several months after her initial visit, Meighan lost her job in fundraising and philanthropic management and offered to volunteer at MHM a few days a week. As her time increased there, so did her responsibilities – and, it seems, her prospects.
The organization’s leaders were looking for a person to manage day-to-day operations; however, they were leery of bringing in someone they didn’t know. When Meighan shared her background with Bridget Cutler, founder and co-executive director, it clicked for both of them. In a little under a year Meighan had become deputy director for MHM. “This is truly the most rewarding job I’ve ever had,” she says.
Meighan’s story supports the findings of a report by the Corporation for National and Community Service, which revealed that volunteering is associated with a whopping 27 percent increase in the odds of finding employment. For volunteers without a high school degree the increase was almost double that figure. In fact, there is a correlation between volunteering and employment regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, geographical area and job market conditions.
What the study didn’t measure was why volunteering was such a potent pathway to employment. But it’s not hard to surmise; working closely with a new set of people broadens the pool of professional contacts, networks and social relationships. Additionally, any work experience, paid or unpaid, is a welcome addition to a resume – something that didn’t go unnoticed by job seekers, even in the midst of a pandemic. In 2020, LinkedIn’s U.S. members added more than 110,000 volunteer experiences and activities to their profiles each month. That’s more than twice the monthly count in 2017.
For those looking to acquire new skills, or re-enter the workforce and use the ones they already have, volunteering can prove invaluable.
Meredith Carpenter, 44, began volunteering with MHM as part of the event committee for the annual gala. Pretty soon Carpenter was coordinating community diaper drives, participating in fundraising and assisting with requests that came in from organization partners and families. Within a year she, like Meighan, was hired, first as a warehouse assistant and later, as development manager.
It was the perfect fit for Carpenter who already had fundraising experience under her belt. “Having worked in the field prior to having my kids I was excited to have a chance to use my skill set again,” she says.While Meighan and Carpenter are happy to have their dream jobs, it’s even more important for them to have jobs that make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.
“Getting involved with MHM really opened my eyes to the urgent level of diaper need in our local communities and the effect it has on families and the health of children,” Carpenter says. “For everyone working here and at our partner agencies, this is about a sense of purpose more than a paycheck.”