One of the keys to every successful nonprofit are the volunteers supporting their mission, but they always need a little guidance and that is where volunteer managers like Meals on Wheels of Northwest Indiana’s Joan Vith step in.
Born in Gary and raised in Merrillville, Vith is a Region native through and through. She graduated from Merrillville High School and from Calumet College of St. Joseph years later. As a young high school grad, her father played a big role in her life.
“He taught me to be a loyal employee to the company that gave you a chance,” Vith said. “They gave you a chance to work and show what you are capable of, regardless of your age and experience.”
She took every step in her professional life as a new chance to learn and grow. Ultimately, this led her to great places even without a college degree.
“I have been fortunate to work at companies that allowed promotions from within,” she said. “I took advantage of every learning opportunity I had and was encouraged by my supervisors to aim for positions I wanted, not the position I already had.”
Despite her success, she says the one piece of advice she would send to her younger self would be to enter college right out of high school. Part of what keeps her strong both now and throughout her life, is the strong connection she shares with her brother, Gary Taylor, who lives in Pennsylvania.
“He’s been a huge supporter of me and my goals throughout the last 20 years of my life,” Vith said. “He has been my ‘knight in shining armor’ through many difficult periods and has encouraged me to stay strong and achieve my goals throughout them all.”
Another source of strength she draws from is the community around her, which played a big role in her spirit of volunteerism.
“It’s important to give back to the communities in which you live and to make a difference for someone who may not have the support of other family or friends,” she said. “It makes your community stronger when we can be good neighbors.”
She started her time with Meals on Wheels as a volunteer after retirement, but when her supervisor moved away she successfully applied for the Volunteer Manager paid position, where she has been since 2013.
“She’s incredible, her compassion for our volunteers is unlimited,” said Jodi Mann-Bella, Business Development Manager for Meals on Wheels NWI. “She worries about their health, and when the weather is bad she worries about their safety while driving. She remembers birthdays, anniversaries, and all manner of personal things. Sometimes I wonder if our volunteers are volunteering for us or because of her!”