When Tracy Myers moved to Des Moines, Iowa, in 2010, near the top of her to-do list was finding a way to give back. After a tour of Hope Ministries, she knew she’d found the perfect fit.
“When I was a teenager, my sister, my mom and I stayed in a shelter for a short period of time,” says Tracy, a manager in P&C Processing for Nationwide. “It’s a moment in my life I’ll always remember, and I knew I wanted to do something in that space. It just felt right.”
Now, she volunteers more than 300 hours of personal time each year to the organization, a network of shelters that serves more than 14,000 meals to hundreds of people each month.
With her husband, Tracy helps serve meals during the holidays — most years, they spend Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter at the shelter — and she’s gotten her fellow Nationwiders involved, too. “It’s something we do on a consistent basis,” she says. “We average around 15 people who each volunteer about four or five times during the year.”
For Tracy, it’s about more than simply serving food — it’s about connecting with the shelter’s residents on a deeper level.
“One evening, I overheard a younger kid talking about how he didn’t have any family, how people he knew had gotten caught up in drugs and using alcohol; my ears perked up,” she says. “I told him about my story. I told him to look into applying at Nationwide. And then, I didn’t see him again for about a month. I started to worry.
“Several weeks later, a guy walked up behind me at Nationwide and said, ‘You probably don’t remember me, but I met you at Hope Ministries — and you gave me hope,’ ” she continues. “He was walking into training at Nationwide. He had gotten his own apartment. It was so cool. When I get the opportunity, I like to share my experience with others — no one should feel like they have to stay in a place where they’re trapped.”
As for what the Volunteer of the Year Award means to her, Tracy’s happy to have the opportunity to highlight Hope Ministries.
“Knowing that they’ll benefit even more thanks to this award, it’s huge,” she says of the $5,000 grant Hope Ministries will receive from Nationwide. “I can’t wait to see what great work they’ll do with this generous donation.”
As the Volunteer of the Year, Myers earns a $5,000 grant for Hope Ministries and two days of paid time off. Nine finalists each receive a $1,000 grant for their nonprofit organization and one day of paid time off.