BENTON HARBOR — Benton Harbor native Diane Young says being a volunteer and helping others is her passion.
“I have always had such a huge heart for helping people and serving others,” said the 1983 graduate of Benton Harbor High School. “I’m like a little kid in a candy store, I’m so happy. I’ve been that way all of my life and as I get older, I find it growing even more and more. It’s a passion I have. I just want to help everybody.”
She loves volunteering so much that about year ago, she founded Sisters From Another Mother.
“We’re a different group of women, but we all share that same passion for people and for community and just for serving others because we really are sisters,” she said. “This really brings us together because our hearts are really huge for making a difference in this community.”
Her group of 23 volunteers has taken on all sorts of projects – from helping at an area dialysis center to reading to school children.
She said the group’s first project was to provide breakfast to residents in one of the area’s shelters.
“We wanted to provide the food, cook the food, serve the residents and then we also included personal care package items,” she said. “... We wanted to just really love on them so they know you’re not always going to be in this space.”
Initially, she said they planned to do one volunteer event a month. But because of the need, she said they’re out there wearing their bright yellow volunteer shirts more often.
“Now, it’s not always going to be everybody, because we all have jobs and lives and families and church,” she said. “But the intent is that every time there’s a need, some of us in the group can go out and help. And we’ve done a lot of different events.”
She said the group collects monthly dues, which are used to help people financially. She said it’s not a lot of money, but it was enough to recently help a young woman in need to buy new tires for her car.
In addition, Young has worked for Kinexus for 27 years. She said she started as a unit clerk in a program designed to give participants eight weeks of work experience. But the staff liked her so much that she said they kept finding jobs for her to do. She now works as a success coach, helping workers to be successful at their jobs.
“It is just the most rewarding when I can work where I can serve, truly serve others,” she said. “... It’s because of the relationship building, the trust and the love that I have for people. That’s really what has kept me here all of this time.”
Young sat down with Staff Writer Louise Wrege recently to talk about her life.
What keeps you going?
When I’m helping people or serving others, I just get so much joy from that. And there is just so much rewarding in that for me.
I tell my family and my coworkers that if the Lord every blessed me and I became a rich woman, it wouldn’t last long. It’s so rewarding to be able to help someone. To be able to put a smile on someone else’s face. And also just to be able to help someone realize their true potential. It allows me to meet a lot of people. But in that, it allows me to help others with resources and just connect them with a lot of things that they would not have known of. I just enjoy it so much.
What do you do at Kinexus?
I’m a success coach in BRN (Business Resource Network). My current position, I’ve only been in this position since January. The BRN is a collaborative of partners that work together to help employers increase their productivity, improve the job retention rate. Along in doing that, we’re helping the employees perform better on their jobs and building stronger families for them. It’s a great program because what happens is I go out to the work site for weekly meetings. And the services that are provided through this BRN program, we assist the employees with transportation resources, we provide mobile food trucks on site. That helps combat the food shortage. We provide referrals to counseling. We also assist with applying for Medicaid, food assistance, cash assistance and other services. That partnership is through the (Michigan) Department of Health and Human Services.
Any other passions?
What I love that gives me just as much joy as volunteering – I’m a wedding coordinator. It is so awesome because I love being married myself. So I coordinate weddings and do some event planning. My class reunion, I’m a big part of planning the reunion. I love planning events.
Do you have a name for your business?
I don’t. It’s just a personal thing I do that I’ve said for years that I need to start my own business.
I used to (roller) skate a lot. I still do, I just don’t do it as much as I used to. And I love traveling. My husband and I have more time now that we’re empty nesters. The kids are all gone. I work with the youth at my church – Tabernacle Church of God in Christ in Benton Harbor on Superior Street.
I talk to (Sisters From Another Mother members) about empowering ourselves and each other, so we attend different workshops. That’s just to help us learn and grow so we can be better mentors to people we encounter. We have that mission. We want to make a difference. Everything we’re doing, we want it to be a strong and powerful message so that we can provide love and we’re promoting unity. We want the community to see, let’s come together, let’s unite and we can be so much better and stronger and then the community will be a better place to live and work. And that’s the whole idea behind this whole organization. Being a light so others can take notice and say, “Hey, I want to make a difference in this community.”
Any plans for when you retire?
When I retire from this work, I want to be a volunteer in a nursing home. Or working part-time in a senior assisted living (facility), working with senior citizens. There’s just something so special about seniors and that environment.
My dad was in a nursing home, and every time I went to visit him, I was visiting everybody else.