New local United Way directors know what it feels like to need help
Published 8:38 am Monday, November 24, 2014
The United Way of Elizabethton/Carter County has two new leaders who are excited about the possibility of getting more involved in the community to assist others.
Cheri Tinney started working first as an administrative assistant and then as assistant director in September. Kathryn Berry joined the United Way team in October as director of the agency.
Both have backgrounds in nonprofit work and say their passion is helping people in need.
Berry said her focus as United Way director will be to raise money, write grants and meet more people to be able to gain additional contributions to help the people of Carter County.
“I am a people person,” Berry said. “I am so excited about getting out in the community and getting to know everyone. This job is a dream come true for me. I feel so fulfilled when I am able to help someone with their needs.”
Berry began her business career managing boutiques. She transitioned to the nonprofit world when she was hired to work at HandsOn! Museum in Johnson City.
“I started writing grants there and realized a nonprofit was where I needed to be,” she said. “I was in my 30s before I realized that. Sometimes you have to wait a minute before God tells you where you need to go.”
After leaving HandsOn! Berry worked with Legal Aid for 11 years before her position was cut. She took that opportunity to be a stay-at-home mother, but when her husband died suddenly of a heart attack in 2011, she found herself back in the job market.
“It took from 2011 until now to find the job that was right for me,” she said. “After my husband died, it was so scary. You go from having everything figured out to having your whole world turned upside down in a matter of minutes. I can understand the difficulties people are going through when they reach out to us for help.”
Tinney also found herself out of work after she lost her job, the result of a company downsizing. She has a background in social work and had worked for one year as an Americorps volunteer with the Johnson City Housing Authority and then in a financial training program with a local credit union.
She said her past experiences will help her do her job as assistant director.
“United Way is how I live my life,” Tinney said. “As a social worker, I would receive the money to distribute to the clients. Now, I’m on the distribution side. To be on both sides helps. When the funding was cut and I lost my job, I know what it is like to not have the funding to do what you need to do, so I can appreciate that.”
Both want to take their experiences and energy out into the community to expand what the United Way does and can do for it’s clients.
Tinney said she would love to see more volunteers working at the United Way on a regular basis so that more services can be provided for clients. She said she would also like to see the agency exceed its campaign goal each year.
Berry wants to expand the number of agencies helped from nine to 15.
“There are so many other agencies that could be helped, and there are so many services out there that people can benefit from,” she said. “I think if we can be a little more diverse and raise more money, then we can show we can support more agencies.”
Tinney and Berry see the people behind the need. Tinney said that last year, the United Way provided more than 16,000 individual services through the nine agencies supported.
“Considering the city’s population is 14,000 people, that is pretty significant,” she said. “The poverty is high. There is a big need here.”
Berry said she wants to bring more comfort into the lives of clients who seek assistance.
“Life is precious,” she said. “I want to bring some happiness into our clients’ lives. The agencies we support do such great work, and they love to help.”
Agencies for the 2015 campaign are Adult Day Services, American Red Cross, Assistance and Resource Ministries, Boys and Girls Club of Elizabethton, Personal Support Service, Contact Ministries, Elizabethton Senior Citizens Center, Sequoyah Council Boy Scouts and the Neighborhood Service Center.
For more information, contact the United Way at 543-6975.