Passionate. Innovative. Brilliant. Creative. Dedicated.
Those are just some of the ways to describe the more than 400 members of the Junior League of Roanoke Valley. It is those qualities that guide us as we serve our neighbors and work to address the challenges our communities face, and it is those same characteristics, combined
with the leadership and training skills that the Junior League provides, that make the women of JLRV highly sought-after to serve on non-profit and corporate boards across the Roanoke Valley.
Lutheria Smith, JLRV Sustaining Director and past president, is currently chairperson of the school board for Roanoke City Public Schools. She also serves on the board for her workplace, Draper Aden Associates, and through the years has served on a number of boards including Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwest Virginia, Council of Community Services, the Southwest Virginia Workforce Development Board, Apple Ridge Farm, and Susan G. Komen Virginia Blue Ridge. Smith says board service is a great way to give of your time and talents to an organization or cause you’re passionate about, but she understands taking that first step to join a board can be nerve-racking.
“I remember being nervous and intimidated by my first leadership role, by my first board,” Smith said. “But what you learn is that if you’re doing it from your heart because you want to give back or you want to give to an organization, people will be willing to help you learn and help you grow and help you do what you need to do.”
Cheri Hartman, a JLRV sustaining member who wrapped up her term as president of the Kiwanis Club of Roanoke in September, agrees that it is important to have a passion and commitment for any organization that you are considering joining its board. “At a pretty young age, I was just blessed that these opportunities were made available to me and I found a good fit almost everywhere that I got involved,” Hartman said. “I was able to develop new programs, get grants that supported those programs and then was sought out by certain organizations that I thought were a good fit for my skills.” Hartman’s board service has included the United Way of Roanoke Valley, Council of Community Services, Human Services Advisory Board for the city of Roanoke, and a founding member and past board president of the Roanoke Valley Hope Initiative.
“Whether your talent lies in communication or in the arts or other areas, you look for where it’s a good fit for you,” Hartman said. “People want a dedicated volunteer who has skills and interests in that area.”
The responsibilities of board members can vary from organization to organization. That is why Anna Muncy, JLRV Nominating Director and a board member for the Botetourt County Chamber of Commerce, says it is important to take an honest assessment of the time and energy you can devote to board service.
“It can sometimes be so easy to say ‘Yes’ to every opportunity that comes over your plate, but if you’re serving on five committees in one year, you’re probably not going to be great at any of the five,” Muncy said. “If you’re only on one or two at any given time, you’re going to be a much better member of the board, so absolutely I think you really need to take a look at what’s on your plate.”
Jennifer Crook, JLRV Administrative Vice President, says talking with current board members can help you determine if serving on a particular board aligns with your values and lifestyle. “Every board is a little bit different,” Crook said. “I think your board members who are currently serving will be honest with you about the time commitment. So if that’s a concern, it’s very easy to have open conversations about that with members who are already on the board.” Crook currently serves on the board of directors for the West End Center for Youth in Roanoke and Pathfinders for Greenways and is also a past secretary for the Virginia Women Attorneys Association. She says board service has provided opportunities she never would have imagined, including being race director for the West End Center’s virtual Spooky Sprint 5K 2020.
“I never would have been a director of a 5K race if I hadn’t joined a board,” Crook said. “I never would have anticipated those kinds of opportunities coming from a board position.” Crook, Muncy, Hartman and Smith all agree: Junior League members can serve on any community or corporate board with confidence because of the top-notch training and leadership development the League provides.
“You have the benefit of having been a part of an organization whose mission is to train volunteers for effective leadership,” Smith said. “I think one thing League members can do is avail yourselves of the fantastic leadership training the League has.” “I think about the preparation for how to be a board member that I’ve learned from the Junior League. That’s huge,” Muncy said. “Doing your homework, reading your materials before the meeting, knowing Robert’s Rules of Order. Just knowing what the expectation is of a board member to be a good contributor.”
They say now, more than ever, it is important that board leadership reflects the communities they serve. “It’s a gift to have diversity,” Smith said. “It can only make you a better organization to have people from different backgrounds and experiences and opinions. We’re a diverse community. We’re a diverse nation. Why not reflect that in the leadership and governance of organizations?” They also have no doubt that the women of JLRV are well-equipped to lead the way. “It’s been my experience to watch the impact of women leaders be especially effective at bringing people together around the table collaboratively,” Hartman said. “That’s why I think it’s worth that investment of yourself because you can have that kind of influence on making change in our community.”
By: Brittny McGraw