Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kasia's story: More than a statistic

For some, losing a job also means struggling to give to the causes we value. Kasia Faryna worked at one of those Charlotte non-profits, and gave to others, until three months ago. How has she reconciled having less to offer?

The Squeeze has been bringing you stories of the recession from around Charlotte, voices that speak to the struggles and successes you'll find throughout our city. Tell us your story, too.

Here's Kasia's:

Three months ago, my employer gave me a letter stating the elimination of my position. From my desk I watched as 40 percent of the 13-person staff began to clear their offices. More than people filling positions, we were a team that worked tirelessly to make difference at our small, national non-profit. After often losing our own identity to the greater good of the cause, 40 percent of us would have to find some other place to filter our passion, dedication and time.

I thought back to the last time the economy shaped my career. It was seven-and-a-half years ago, when I relocated to Charlotte from Orlando, FL. A recent college grad, I followed my instinct and moved despite the challenges of not having friends, connections or job prospects in the area. A few weeks into my search, the nation felt the impact of September 11, 2001’s devastation. As difficult as it was to find an entry-level job in a good economy, my chances slipped away with the economic down-turn that soon followed.

I was able to get my foot in the door as an internal employee at a staffing agency and in April of 2002, they placed me with one of their clients, the same non-profit that employed me through 2008. In the time that many of my peers took two or three jobs, I dedicated myself to the same employer, building a comprehensive resume, maturing as an employee, remaining committed the projects and people I served, and establishing roots in Charlotte.

During my tenure, there was not a day that my organization did not feel “the squeeze.” Like many other non-profits, it never stopped us from delivering programming that far exceeded its value on paper. However, we were no longer able to function at the same level. Deep cuts at our organization resulted in an ironic cycle; my job loss forced me to temporarily cancel monthly contributions to the non-profits that I supported. The situation was disappointing and embarrassing, but a move I had to make for my own financial survival.

I felt obligated to find a new way to give back. For me, that was as a volunteer. Not only did my contribution aid an organization with limited human resource allocations, but I redefined my own self-worth at a time when the world viewed me as a statistic. The eternal optimist, I began to envision the impact of every unemployed worker taking a few hours each week to give back. It could give new life to a struggling organization; maybe even expand programming at a time when the community needs it most. For every minute that a volunteer spends on a mailing, making a phone call or fulfilling a service need, the organization’s leadership can focus on executive functions that will carry them through this volatile time.

My cause, the American Red Cross of Cabarrus County, took me in as their public affairs volunteer. In my role, I work to improve communications with media, donors, clients and volunteers. In return, I am able to keep my skills in practice, add to my resume and make new contacts. If more volunteers came to the office, the Red Cross would be able to enhance their blood drive programs, add daytime personnel to respond to local disasters and expand the reach of live-saving instruction. Imagine if we were able to multiply that sort of impact against the hundreds of non-profit missions in the Charlotte area.

If you are able to, continue making monthly donations, no matter how small. But for those of us who have the opportunity to give the gift of time, it is imperative we step forward and make a difference. Find your cause, find your role and make your contribution. You never know, it could be your work that enables one more non-profit to make it through this economy.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Kasia, for pointing out that volunteering is a great way to maintain and expand your skills, network with potential employers and colleagues, and help organizations, causes and individuals who are also coping with the economic crisis. I hope more people follow your example - working together as a community is the best way to get through these difficult times.