Meet Glenda May, executive director of Allen nonprofit Allen Community Outreach, who went from the corporate world to devoting her life to caring for Allen residents experiencing hardship.
We wanted to get to know May a bit better, and she was nice enough to answer some questions for us about ACO, herself and the community she loves to serve:
AW: Can you start by telling us a little about Allen Community Outreach?
GM: Allen Community Outreach (ACO) is in its 29th year of service to the community. ACO was originally founded as Allen Information and Referral and within one year had changed its name to ACO. We are a human service agency that helps families in crisis with rent, utilities, food and clothing. We have a summer food program to help feed children on the free or reduced school lunch program; the Fill the Bus program collects school supplies for the Back To School Blast; and Thanksgiving and Christmas [there] are programs to help families, children and seniors with food and gifts.
AW: What are your duties at ACO?
GM: I am the Executive Director (ED) of ACO, and as such, I am in charge of the day-to-day running of the programs and staff under the guidance of a 15-member board of directors.
AW: How did you become involved with ACO, and why are you passionate about it?
GM: 2014 is my 19th year as the ED. Years ago, I had worked in the corporate relocation world. My passion for the mission of ACO—“helping transform lives by providing essential human and social services in our communities”—burns as bright today as ever. ACO is moving into the strategic direction of helping families transform their lives through intensive mentoring and coaching to help them reach freedom from their poverty situation for themselves and their children. What a goal to be passionate about, helping people out of their poverty through education, life skill training and financial freedom! That is why I get up and come to work each day.
AW: How do you continue to provide folks in Allen and surrounding areas with some of their basic needs? How does ACO stay afloat?
GM: ACO is supported greatly by the community with volunteer time as well as in-kind and financial gifts. As an organization, we could not stay afloat without our volunteers who give so many hours of their time to the food pantry, Treasure Chest, Resale Shops, and ACO offices. Financially, ACO is gifted annually, with over 50 percent of our budget coming from individual and corporate gifts; the Resale shop funding is the next-largest financial support.
AW: Why do you work in the nonprofit sector?
GM: I came from the corporate world of relocation, and decided that I did not want to work in that arena anymore. After much soul-searching, I knew from my years of volunteering that the nonprofit sector was right for me.
AW: What are ACO's biggest needs in 2014? How can the folks of Allen help you all give back to the community?
GM: Each year, we set annual goals as well as visioning for the future. We are so blessed with a great community [whose members] give of their time, talent and financial support. Without a doubt, we need this community to continue staying engaged by giving of their time, talent and financial support, and that in turn will help ACO help our clients with a "hand up" and not a handout!
AW: What has been your favorite moment at an ACO event so far?
GM: Without a doubt, my favorite moment has been when a lady walked up to me at a county-wide meeting and said, “I was a client of ACO’s years ago; do you remember? I could never have made it through college and secured this college-level position without your help throughout the years!” Or maybe, it was when a repair man said to me, “I was going to lose my home, but your staff helped me and my family, and we are now OK.” Or maybe it was when a little old lady who had lived in the country all her life and never had a home of her own said, “I can’t believe your caseworker found this trailer for me, and it is mine!"