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Shareholder Amber Busch is well known around her community and Clark Nuber for giving her time to help others. We recently spoke with Amber about how she made volunteering a habit, the benefits she’s seen from doing so, and how others can use their skills to make the world a better place.
You’re considered a leader in the community now, but you got your start somewhere. Can you tell us about your first volunteering experience?
Amber Busch (AB): “The first one I can remember is Key Club in high school. I’m not sure if that’s still around, but it was all about volunteerism and work in the community. Around the holidays, we’d put on events where Santa came and the kids could see him, things like that.”
Do you recall why you got involved in Key Club?
AB: “I don’t remember why I joined, it was quite a few years ago. (Laughter) But it’s really been in the last 15 years that volunteering’s become woven into the fabric of my family. Everyone has time and talents they can share with others. And we believe you should use what you’ve been given to help make the world a better place.”
How did volunteering become such an important thing for your family?
AB: “Well, my husband and I were foster parents for about three years. That’s giving your time 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So when we eventually stopped, we had to figure out how to keep channeling all that energy. We didn’t want to lose the momentum of giving back to the community.
We got very strategic at looking for opportunities where, not only we could volunteer, but also our kids. We really wanted to teach them volunteerism and have that be a part of who they are.”
Was it difficult to find the time when your family first started volunteering?
AB: “My family had a lot of structure around it when we first started. Originally, we made a point to volunteer at least once a month. And then it just grew and grew. Now, we’ll hear of people who need things in the community, and we simply go do it. It’s not an event anymore or a big deal.
If you put structure around volunteering and say, ‘This is what I’m going to do, and I’m going to do it at these increments,’ before you know it, you’re loving it!”
Can you share about some of the organizations you’re a part of?
AB: “Of course! There’s an organization in Maple Valley we love called Backpack Buddies. Someone we know started it up, and we’re passionate about helping them succeed.
Backpack Buddies’ goal is to make sure kids with free or reduced lunches also have food outside of the school day. So, every Friday, they get sent home with a backpack full of food that they can have for the weekend.”
I love that idea. It’s certainly helping to make those kids’ lives easier. What else are you involved in?
AB: “There’s also Treehouse. I’ve been on their Board of Directors since 2017, and I currently serve as the Secretary of the Board as well. I’m very passionate about foster youth, and the mission of Treehouse is amazing. Their big goal is that by 2027, 90% of all foster youth in Washington state will graduate from high school with support and a plan for their future. So, they’re the organization I’m most deeply involved in.
Then there’s another organization called Vine Maple Place, which aids displaced men or women with children and aims to stop the cycle of homelessness. They help them with financial education, budgeting, counseling for them and their children, and they help them get a job with a living wage.
I love the idea of helping and impacting generations. There is so much emotional trauma in these kids, and if you can stop that cycle, and give them a safe, secure place to live with their parents, you’re impacting not only them but the children they may one day have themselves.”
Where is a good place to start for someone interested in volunteering?
AB: “My advice would be to find a cause you’re passionate about. We all have limited time, so don’t just do it to do it. Do it because it means something to you!
Look into organizations that are involved in something you care about. Then narrow it down to a couple options and go talk to them to learn more. I was passionate about supporting foster youth, so I discovered Treehouse, looked into their mission, and reached out to see how I could get involved.”
Any advice for first timers who might be nervous about volunteering?
AB: “Even if you find something you’re passionate about, you’ll probably still be nervous. But don’t let that stop you from trying!
The first time I went to volunteer at Vine Maple Place, I was so nervous to lead a class on job hunting and resume building. I kept asking myself, ‘Am I going to be able to teach these skills?’ And I was so anxious to sit down with someone and help them do it. But you figure it out. And when you’re done, you feel so great. And you can add value, even if you’re new at it and doing something that’s different than you’re used to.
Take that first step. And that will lead into the second, third, fourth, and on.”
Serving on a board is another way to volunteer your time to a cause. What are your responsibilities when serving in that role?
AB: “It really depends on what kind of organization you’re on the board for. For smaller organizations you’re doing a lot of hands on projects that help move the organization forward. You’d also approve the financials, look at the budgets, provide oversight, and occasionally give advice if they’re looking at strategic choices and options.
Treehouse is slightly different because it has been around for a long time and the professional leadership is fantastic, top notch. Our role as the board is to provide oversight to Treehouse as a business and act as a sounding board for the CEO.”
If someone wants to serve on a nonprofit board, what’s the best way for them to get started?
AB: “I’d say the best way to get started is to research an organization you like, and then serve on a committee and volunteer with them somehow.
That’s how I started with Treehouse. I used their services as a foster parent, volunteered for them, served on their program committee, and then was asked to be on their board. Volunteering first was smart, because I learned more about the organization before I stepped into a leadership role. It is a huge time commitment, so you want to make sure it is something you understand and are passionate about.”
What would you say are the hallmarks of a strong community leader?
AB: “It’s similar to what we talked about earlier. It’s about using your time, talent, and finances to help the community out. That looks different for everyone. But I believe consistency is important too, so it’s not just a once-a-year thing.
A strong community leader, it’s in the nature of what they’re doing. It’s looking for those opportunities to make a difference. And it’s not about the need for recognition. If something needs to be done, and you step up and do it, you’re making a difference and you’re acting like a leader.”
Obviously giving back to the community is its own reward, but what benefits have you seen for yourself from volunteering?
AB: “From a business perspective, I get to meet people from all over the community who share my passion for a cause, and I get to make all these connections. There’s also the opportunity to learn from these organizations and the people that I meet and their struggles and solutions. They’re outside the core of what I do, but you get so many perspectives on navigating obstacles.
And, personally, I love that we’ve instilled the value of service in our children. And hopefully they’ll carry that on to their own children. I’m really into generational impact. I love the idea that something you do now could influence people years from now in positive way.”
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