Volunteer Spotlight: Malina Blanton, Wells Fargo
“As a branch manager, member of the community and native of the community, I think trying to model what a difference can be made when you give back to the place you live in is important,” shares Malina Blanton of Wells Fargo and United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County leadership giving group member of both Highlands Circle and Women United. “I try to connect the dots for others to see that we can’t fix everything or help everybody, but if you can impact one person’s life, what a difference that can make because typically that person is going to impact someone else's life and it creates a positive chain of reaction, which is what we need.”
Blanton, an active volunteer in the community, has been with Wells Fargo in Asheville for 13 years. She said about four years ago, the area Wells Fargo President reached out to her about the possibility of organizing and leading a Western Atlantic Region volunteer chapter. There are 50 branches total in the Western Atlantic Region, with 10 branches in the Asheville/Buncombe County region. Blanton agreed and stepped into the role of President of the Wells Fargo staff volunteer chapter. “So I help answer questions, get people connected, find events to get involved in the community, a lot of which are through Hands On Asheville-Buncombe.
Why Volunteering Is Important to Her...
“About four years ago, I went through a pretty scary health crisis,” says Blanton, “so as soon as I got through it, and was on the upside, I was determined to use my health and my time to give back however I could. I knew I had a bigger purpose and wanted to do everything I could to fulfill that and support my community.” A native of the area, Blanton graduated from Erwin High School, later going on to take classes at AB Tech before finding her fit with Wells Fargo in the community.
“It was cool because the first Homework Diner we did as a team was at Asheville Middle. When I realized there were Homework Diners at Erwin Middle, I was like, we have to do this. It was so much fun to go back after all these years and see what I remembered and what I didn't, what had changed. That’s really been my goal in all of this--to give back to my community so it’s just really all aligned.”
Blanton began volunteering with United Way about five years ago, attending an after-hours event, where she met Kris Dionne of United Way and other staff. “The first thing we did as a group, as a company, is volunteer one afternoon at MANNA Foodbank,” she recalls. “After that I was hooked. I’m actually a volunteer leader for a group at MANNA and have been doing that for about three years now. When we first started, we called it the MANNA Packs for Kids, which has grown and is now called MANNA Hunger Response. We sort food, pack and sort items, and get ready for weekly volunteers to create the MANNA Packs for local students.”
Wells Fargo Volunteerism in Action...
Blanton and many staff members from the Wells Fargo team are continuously finding new opportunities to engage and give back in Buncombe County. Members of their team have been involved in the Buncombe County Schools Crisis Closet, supporting students facing hunger and homelessness as well as migrant students and families, served dinner for the community through Homework Diners, volunteered time to wrap books as part of the annual Holiday Book Drive, shared their expertise in Asheville Middle’s Reality Store event, and so much more.
The photo at the top of the page is of the Wells Fargo Staff from the spring 2019 Reality Store event. “It’s so much fun to watch the difference of how students interpret ‘adulting’ as a couple of them have said,” Blanton laughs and shares with me just outside the school gymnasium as the event is wrapping up. “Some of the students go straight to, I have four kids so I need T.V. and Internet to keep up and I look at them and say, ‘Well have you paid your rent yet, because you need your rent paid and a place to live before you can have either of those things.’ They’re not charged to think like that just yet. I’m excited to help in an event like this that helps give them a head start in drawing the conclusions of what’s important and how to budget accordingly, because now half of them are in line for second jobs.”
As she finishes, a student runs up to her and asks for more blank checks. “Do you have money to cover these checks in your account?” she asks. The student nods and takes the blank slips of paper from her hand, running back into the gymnasium. “I would love to fix the world and save the world, but one person can’t do that alone,” she said. “I think if we can model for everyone that changing one person’s life and creating a positive chain reaction, well that really does make a huge difference."
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