Originally published in the Florida Times-Union
Sometimes to make a difference, you have to see the big picture.
That’s how Mike Herman sees his role as chairman of United Way of Northeast Florida’s Board of Directors – encouraging others to look at the big picture to see how they can make a difference.
Herman, senior vice president and general counsel for Rayonier Advanced Materials, has served United Way in many different leadership roles over the years and sees his current role as board chairman as a way to make even a bigger difference.
“Although I knew about United Way benefitting the community,” Herman said, “when I first joined the Campaign Cabinet many years ago, I started seeing first-hand and really understanding the value of United Way’s programs – especially to a community this size.”
As a New York and New Jersey resident, Herman saw his previous Northeast communities provide robust services and programs that enabled people to help themselves overcome hardships. After moving to Jacksonville to join Rayonier and be closer to family 12 years ago, Herman quickly discovered there were fewer government programs to help struggling, hardworking families. He credits United Way as being a major source of support for our community.
“United Way programs are crucial to giving our neighbors – and especially the children and hardworking families – life skills to give them a hand up,” said Herman. “United Way and its community impact partners teach people how to help themselves and get back on track to lead healthy, productive lives.”
United Way collaborates with 56 nonprofit organizations to fund, develop and implement 77 measurable programs.
Volunteers evaluate initiatives, modify strategies to improve outcomes and hold United Way and the agencies it funds accountable for results.
“When I see a child who benefitted from a Success By 6 scholarship succeeding in school, or a hardworking single mom who has learned about financial management from our RealSense program, or one of the 110,000 people annually given a second chance because they called our 211 help line, I think: if it weren’t for United Way’s help, that person’s life could have gone a different way,” Herman said.
Herman said he was more fortunate than many growing up, having two supportive parents who helped him stay on track. Throughout her life, his mother, Evelyn, was involved in a variety of educational, religious and charitable community projects, even after she and Herman’s dad retired to Florida.
“My mom always found time for volunteering, even while working and raising three kids,” Herman said. “She always gave of herself to help wherever she could.”
Herman is proud of the way she touched people’s lives, including inspiring him to do the same. Volunteering with United Way is Herman’s way of giving back the way his mother did. He hopes it sets an example for his children and for other members of the community to step up and join United Way’s efforts.
“There is a picture bigger than just our own lives,” Herman said. “For me, it’s giving back to the community in which I live through United Way. And if United Way wasn’t here to give a hand up to people who are trying to improve their lives, what would our community look like?”