By Kate Jolley
Orginally published in The Florida Times-Union
When SuDelta Henson was just 25 years old and starting her career, she signed up to give through United Way of Northeast Florida. Little did she know 12 years later she would form life-long friendships through the local nonprofit organization. She also became a mentor to young girls, helping them through pivotal times of their lives.
As her involvement with United Way progressed, Henson became even more interested in the value United Way brings to our community. She joined the organization’s young professionals group, Atlantic Circle, which provides leadership opportunities through social and professional activities. “I work in accounting and finance every day, so I wanted to be a part of something that was doing something different in our community,” said Henson.
Through Atlantic Circle, Henson formed professional contacts as well as personal friendships. Then, in 2011, she signed up for the Stein Fellowship to give back to the organization that already gave her so much. As a Fellow, she was active in professional development forums, trainings, networking and became a mentor to a young lady in middle school through Achievers For Life, a drop-out prevention initiative lead by United Way and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida. “Going to see her and make sure she was doing the best she could do brought so much value to me,” said Henson.
Henson was also closely involved with this year’s Upstream competition – a social innovation challenge for young professionals that provides grant funding for groundbreaking ideas – and was pleased to see the impressive ideas set forth by the students.
“Just reading some of the stories and ideas is inspiring because it’s so personal to these young people,” said Henson. She watched this initiative introduce students to relationship building, the challenge of working for a cause and the pride that comes from watching hard work make a difference in the lives of others. She believes volunteers have similar life-changing experiences when donating their time to United Way. “[You can] see the impact of what you’re doing both financially and through service, which goes a long way and helps a lot of people in our city,” she said.
What started as a group to meet young professionals outside of her regular work environment blossomed in ways Henson could never have imagined – helping strengthen her community through volunteerism. Are you interested in volunteering through United Way of Northeast Florida and its partners? Visit unitedwaynefl.org/volunteer.
In addition, Atlantic Circle’s signature spring event is April 26. “Cocktails and Conversation” allows young professionals a chance to hear from some of our community’s leading philanthropists. RSVP today at unitedwaynefl.org/event/cocktails-convos-2017.