We like to feature our volunteers on our blog. This month, we are featuring Jo Ellen Haddad, 2015 United Way Women's Leadership Initiative chair.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you work? What do you do for fun?
I’m the Witwer Healthy Aging Program Coordinator at Aging Services. I have the pleasure of enriching lives of older adults by providing life-long learning opportunities, social & leisure activities, health & wellness programs, and nutrition services throughout Linn County.
When I’m not working, I enjoy bicycling with my husband, Jim. Last summer, we loaded up our bikes and hit trails in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota. We have also come to enjoy skiing. Our kids really wanted to learn to ski, so we decided to take them to Vail, Colorado to ski during a spring break. Not wanting to be left out of the fun, Jim and I took adult ski lessons for beginners. Six years later, we’re still skiing. We graduated from the bunny hill and the magic carpet to the back bowls and groomed black diamond runs. I stand behind the Witwer Health Aging motto, “You are never too old to learn.”
What’s something unique that people don’t know about you?
I’m a third generation graduate of Iowa State University.
I’m also afraid of heights, and I dislike driving or walking over bridges. My family can share a story or two about me and bridges.
What are your favorite activities in the community?
• Bicycling on local trails
• Farmers markets
• Outdoor summer music events
• Theatre Cedar Rapids
• Brucemore events
What is some of the best parenting and/or leadership advice you have received?
Two parenting tips come to mind:
- To help your children become good decision makers, you (the parent) have to give them choices. As parents, we often tell our kids this is what we’re doing and we’re doing it this way; they have no say in the matter. When my children were growing up, I tried to present them with 2–3 choices with clearly stated consequences that we talked through before they made their decision. They had to live with the consequences of their choice — no arguing.
- To make “questionable” spring break trips with friends less appealing, make sure you (the parent) plan trips during spring breaks that rock so your kids would rather spend their time with you. Quality time with the kiddos and NO worries that your child will end up in some crazy spring break video!
What are you most passionate about?
Making sure that people who do not always have a “voice” are heard instead of overlooked. Collectively, we can make a difference.
Why is volunteering so important to you?
Volunteering provides me the opportunity to support and strengthen my community. It’s a great way to create connections with other people. I can honestly say I have met some great people through my various volunteer endeavors, people I may never have met if I hadn’t said, “Yes, how can I help?”
How did you decide to get involved with United Way?
Art Christoffersen introduced us to United Way more than 25 years ago, when Jim brought home material from the company’s campaign. It was an easy decision. United Way understands our community, identifies unmet needs/issues, and allocates funding where it’s needed.
Why did you join WLI?
I joined WLI because it’s important to me that all women have the opportunity to live happy, healthy, and productive lives. WLI gives low-income women hope for a better tomorrow.