TLLF: You’re originally from Asheville. What’s something you most enjoy about that part of the state?
JW: The natural beauty of being in the mountains. Ever since I left for college, I’ve felt an overwhelming sense of being home whenever I see the mountain ridges rise over the horizon for the first time. Spending time in nature, specifically the mountains, helps me feel grounded and reminds me I’m just a small part of a much bigger world.
TLLF: Can you share something you’ll always carry with you – a lesson, experience, theme – from your time working as a social worker? What drew you to that field?
JW: Most people live their lives carrying heavy burdens that you wouldn’t even be aware of if you don’t take the time to ask questions and listen to their story. Sometimes you can offer concrete help and sometimes you can help folks change their perspective. Sometimes the best you can offer people is to bear witness to their suffering. Doing so with kindness and compassion can sow the seeds of healing and change.
I came to social work following the death by suicide of my fiancé. Following that loss, I became heavily involved with a support group for folks who had lost a loved one to suicide, first as a member and later as a co-facilitator after completing some training. Many of my fellow co-facilitators were social workers who thought I had some natural talent for helping other people. They encouraged me to consider social work as a profession if I ever decided to make a career change. After doing some research on the field, I decided to pursue it in the hopes that I could use the harsh lessons of my loss to help others who were struggling with life’s challenges.
TLLF: What excites you most about starting this chapter with TLLF?
JW: I’m most excited about being a part of an organization that is committed to making substantial positive change in the Carolinas. Social workers are taught to see the world through a lens of systems. Before coming to TLLF, my social work practice was done on a direct, person-to-person level in an attempt to help individuals better navigate the systems in which they lived. This role with TLLF will allow me the opportunity to take the ethical principles that guide me as a social worker and apply them at a much larger scale than I could previously, by identifying and advocating for incredible organizations that are changing some of the systems that people live in every day.
TLLF: Since you worked in fundraising for some time, what is one of your best fundraising/development tips for nonprofits?
JW: Always connect your asks to your mission. You are already doing the important work every day, you just need to make it clear how folks can partner with you.
TLLF: What is one of your favourite books?
JW: I really enjoy “If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him!” by Sheldon Kopp. It looks at the process of psychotherapy as a part of a larger process of self discovery. The lessons in the book really resonated with me and I’ve started the book with several other people.