People who give of their personal time to care for others are among some of the best people in the world. Here at United Way, we get to meet a lot of those folks and we try to shine a spotlight on them - in thanks for what they do but also to inspire others.
Our spotlight this month is on Shelia Christofalos!
Why do you volunteer and give to United Way?
I began giving to United Way through payroll deductions at my first job at BB&T in the mid 1980's. It was something that the company encouraged and I'm so glad they did. Over the years since then, I have lived in many parts of the country and United Way has been a vibrant resource in every community. The consistency of United Way's mission, to help those who are less fortunate, touches so many lives across our nation. I believe it is imperative to keep the work of United Way going and growing to meet the widespread needs that are out there. There is much work to do and I feel a responsibility to give back. United Way provides a wonderful conduit for me to get involved in my community.
What small act of kindness were you once shown that you will never forget?
I had a teacher in my early years that gave me a very special book that really framed the way I saw the world and what I could become. It was a hard copy of "The Little Engine That Could". She wrote a very kind note inside of it and I've cherished that book to this day. The challenges and problems we encounter are a part of our unique story and they make us who we are. This act of kindness has helped me to foster a "never give up" attitude which has served me well through life's ups and downs. I just sent a copy of the same book to my new niece!
What makes someone a hero?
I think a hero is someone who puts themselves before others in a really significant way. The heroic act, whether it be one or many, is an act that changes someone else's life for the better in a profound way. I think being a hero takes a superhuman effort, but there are many heroes around us in our communities. Some are quiet heroes and others are celebrated. We need lots of heroes in this complicated world.
What activities make you lose track of time?
I love being outside in the woods either on my bike or hiking with the dog. I also enjoy reading fiction and non-fiction and I dabble in various creative activities. When I am at work, I enjoy wrapping my head around the analytics of portfolio construction. Finance has always fascinated me.
What’s something new you recently learned about yourself?
I've recently learned that I have a lot of untapped potential. I've been studying successful people and the habits that help them accomplish great things. I'm working on becoming more selective with what I spend my time on and improving my ability to focus and prioritize. It's pretty interesting how much of our brains we actually don't use. I'm working on that.
What three questions do you wish you knew the answers to?
- How can we provide clean, safe drinking water to everyone around the world at an affordable price?
- How can we make and distribute enough food to end starvation and hunger?
- How can we provide every child in every nation an education that will enable them to make a living wage?
I think these questions can and will be addressed with advancements in technology. Then the only challenge will be to get nation states to embrace basic human rights so that the technologies can be deployed to those that are in need.
What is the best advice you can offer to young women and young men as they start their careers?
Always go the extra mile in what you do. Come in early and stay late, but remember to take care of yourself also. Always be learning. Always strive to provide excellent service to customers, co-workers, etc. Surround yourself with people you admire in your company and field of work. Ask for help. As you progress in your career, give back to those that are just starting out. Listen more than you talk. Be empathetic. Never give up. Get involved with United Way and give back to your community!