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Confessions of a United Way Intern

by Dalise Devos

animal spirit 3As I sat in The Boiled Owl and jammed out to the sultry sounds of Animal Spirit, I looked around and felt an immense sense of satisfaction. Every drink in the room bore a United Way koozie, reminding me that today, I helped make an impact in my community – an impact reaching much further than ensuring people’s drinks stayed cold in the Texas summer heat.

When I began my journey as a marketing and communications intern with the United Way of Tarrant County nearly two months ago, I honestly knew very little about the organization. I recognized the United Way name, and knew it was a nonprofit, which meant it helped people – right? I mean, it was certainly helping me reach my professional goals, and I was so grateful for the opportunity.

In a very short time, I realized the true, lasting impact that the United Way of Tarrant County has on our community. We tackle the core issues of education, income, and health that plague the real people in our neighborhoods – like the boy who’s struggling to read in school; or the father who’s been laid off and can’t find work to support his family; or even the grandmother who’s too afraid to leave her home because she might fall and injure herself.

We partner with other local organizations to implement programs like Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which sends free books to children ages 0 – 5 every month, and A Matter of Balance, a free series of eight two-hour sessions for older adults that lessen the fear of falling and increase strength and balance through exercise. While other nonprofits focus on a single issue in the community, we focus on the community as whole, and work with those organizations to improve lives that could not be reached without our joined efforts.

Dalise Devos and Treasure Ford-392x304Unfortunately, most millennials are just as clueless as I was about what the United Way of Tarrant County actually does, so when I found out that we were to be the sole nonprofit partner of the Fort Worth Weekly Music Awards Festival June 25 and 26, I saw an opportunity to begin to change that.

I began brainstorming with the rest of our small, but passionate Marketing and Communications team to develop other ways of not only engaging event goers, but encouraging them to purchase the event’s digital compilation album, Frequencies, as some of the proceeds from these sales would go directly to United Way. This was my chance to finally put everything I’d learned into practice.

I worked with Melody Kresser, our Senior Digital Designer, to design a cobranded United Way and Fort Worth Weekly Snapchat geofilter for the two-day, multi-venue event. We got a KUVAgram photo booth, which allows users to print any photo posted to social media that’s tagged with a specific hashtag. We gathered volunteers, designed coasters, and ordered sunglasses and, of course, koozies. We couldn’t be more ready.

As my feet struck the pavement of West Magnolia and I noticed the crowds of people beginning to trickle into the bars around me, a mixture of excitement and fear began to grow within me. What would I say to these people about United Way? How could I get them to care? Would they even be able to hear me above the roar of the bands?

But as they day progressed, I learned that I didn’t have to get these people to care – they already did. Most of them were just like me – eager to make a difference, but not knowing how. And when they asked me what the United Way of Tarrant County does, I knew just what to tell them.

At the end of the day, it wasn’t about having the right words to say or right swag to give away, it was about being there. It was about posing for selfies and cheering for bands. It was about letting people know that United Way is a part of this community, but more importantly, we’re a part of making it better. Altogether, we raised $1,000 from album sales, but the awareness we raised – priceless.

And as Fort Worth Weekly thanked us for our sponsorship on stage, the crowd went wild.

Dalise Devos is a mass communication major at Texas Wesleyan University. She’s shown at left in the photo above with United Way marketing and communications intern Treasure Ford, a marketing major at Texas Wesleyan.