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Following the Need

I had been kicking around the idea of getting involved and giving back for a while when I first moved to Maryland four years ago. I asked friends and associates for suggestions. Someone told me about Idealist; I did some basic online research. I then got really busy at work and my intent was sidelined for a bit.

However, destiny may have had a hand in confirming that this was the time for me to begin some sort of community service, as what I determined to be the perfect match was delivered right to my desk. Well, to my computer screen.

I received a notice of an event taking place near me in Baltimore; it was called a Buttercream Ball. Hmm? Buttercream? Now, that sounded like something I would want to know more about.

After some further digging, I traced the event back to an organization that delivers elaborate dream cakes to chronically and critically ill children, Icing Smiles.

What a great opportunity, I thought—combining two of my favorite things: kids and cakes. What could be better? In fact, I could see myself delivering boxes of sugary happiness. I imagined singing “Happy Birthday” and visiting with the children, hopefully bringing a bright spot to their day. I would really get a greater sense of my community and feel like I was doing something impactful.

I couldn’t wait until the end of the day so I could reach out and see where and how to get involved. I mentioned my discovery to some friends and my boyfriend, and knowing me, they also agreed this would be a wonderful match. I began to envision the perfect role for myself and my background, meeting with their Sugar Angels, learning about the families, getting their stories and photos when I visited them.

Someone from the organization got back to me the next day and she was excited to tell me that their communications team was in dire need of someone to manage their bi-monthly newsletter. With my skill set, she also felt that I could contribute much to their efforts. Later in the week I spoke with another lovely volunteer who walked me through their CMS and showed me how to retrieve the information I would need to compile the newsletter. I was introduced via email to some other team members with whom I might overlap in my role, and I really started to get excited about what I would be doing. True to form, I got out my planner and began executing a game plan and a scheduling strategy to work these responsibilities and my other projects around my day job.

My head buzzed with activity that night as it hit the pillow—and as I laid there, I realized that the role I was taking on was quite different than what I had imagined. I would not be seeing the children at all, or delivering any cakes. There would be no singing. My role was to pull all the photos and info that others would provide and compile those resources into an engaging newsletter. I thought for a second how I felt about that. Was I disappointed? To be honest, for a moment I was. I am only human, but I did regroup and realize that I was being selfish. That by its very nature, community service is not about what you want to do, rather it is about going where the need takes you. I needed to follow the need.

Three years later I am grateful to be where my community service journey has led me — to a network of amazing individuals who are gracious enough to understand where they also are truly needed.

We are pleased to announce our second Woman of Grace recipient: Tracy Quisenberry, the Founder of Icing Smiles. Read how her empathy, resilience, and sacrifice helped create better birthdays for sick children and their families here.

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