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Giving Back: Organizer learned at an early age how to get big rewards

August 6, 2016

By Nancy Winckler-Zuniga
Originally published in The Florida Times-Union

Corrie Burgess enjoys giving back to the community through helping organize volunteer projects with United Way of Northeast Florida.
Corrie Burgess enjoys giving back to the community through helping organize volunteer projects with United Way of Northeast Florida.

As a child, Corrie Burgess tagged alongside her grandmother wherever she went, including visits to a local nursing home. While they passed out cups of coffee and doughnuts, Burgess was touched by the reaction of the residents.

“They’d be so excited to see kids in there,” she said. “My cousin and I would help. They’d always be so happy, especially this one couple that was so cute; they were so sweet and loving.”

Growing up in Austintown, Ohio, giving back was part of Burgess’s family’s life — especially with her grandmother, who helped any way she could as a commitment to church and community.

“Whatever she wanted to do, we did it with her,” Burgess said. “If she was down at church, we were there, too. We had to stop when we went to school but, as I got older, we would help with collecting canned goods or raking church members’ yards.”

Burgess has brought the same kind of commitment to her involvement with United Way of Northeast Florida and the volunteer projects she helps organize. A buyer for Unison Industries, a subsidiary of GE Aviation, Burgess became the lead volunteer coordinator for Unison, a United Way corporate partner.

When her career brought her to Jacksonville five years ago, Burgess began volunteering with the company’s community service projects group at the invitation of a friend. When her friend stepped down as the leader of the service group, Burgess volunteered to take that place.

It’s a big responsibility to which she feels drawn, she said, building camaraderie with her coworkers while making a difference.

“We had 129 projects around the city this year,” Burgess said. “Many of them were beautification projects or food distribution through Farm Share, and we partnered with Feeding Northeast Florida once a month.”

During GE’s Community Days — two days of concentrated volunteer efforts — Burgess works with United Way to coordinate 14 volunteer events across Northeast Florida. Spanning two afternoons, the events include Burgess organizing 200 volunteers and ensuring the projects go off as planned.

“I love to organize things,” Burgess said. “I like to get people together. It builds a sense of family. The people you work with are your extended family. And it’s really cool to see the reactions of the people who benefit.”