Newsmaker Q&A

Charlotte Guedry
Sherry Denig is the Executive Director of Volunteer Ascension.

How did you become interested in your chosen career?

While researching charitable organizations for a corporate partnership several years back, I met Dee Robinson who was the executive director for Braveheart Children in Need.  I was so inspired by her passion and her commitment.  I remember that as the first time that I had ever considered a total career change, but the timing just wasn’t right. It wasn’t until a few years later that I would get my chance.  An unexpected layoff put me back into the job market and the rest, well, I consider it one of those pivotal blessings in life.

What do you enjoy most about your position, and what do you enjoy least?

I enjoy helping people and watching their circumstances change.  For me, seeing our community play such a huge part in that is truly the best part of my job.  I am so proud to be a citizen of Ascension Parish.  I have the opportunity to work with some of the most amazing people who have such hearts for service.  There are so many days that I go home thinking, “does it get any better than this?” If I had to say “what I enjoy least,” probably paperwork.  I would much rather be out in the field, or working on a new volunteer campaign, or looking for unique ways to get our message out.  I suppose that is sort of a “right brain” thing!  But balance is the key.  That includes having Ellie Amedee as the “left brain” part of our office team!  She keeps me on track.

What does a typical day consist of?

My day starts about 5 a.m. and includes very strong coffee and something inspirational to read.  I probably get that from my grandfather.  He read his bible every morning.  That quiet time is a “game changer” for me.  If I miss it, my day never goes as well as it could.  Then around 6:30 things start moving and shaking around our house.   Poptarts, test papers, book reports, a misplaced sneaker and the sound of the bus coming down our street are all part of mornings at our house.  After getting our 5th grader off to school, my husband and I head to work.  At work, I try to tackle the administrative duties early in the day and save the more creative tasks for later in the day.  Every day is different and is mixed with phone calls from people in need, to people who are looking for volunteer opportunities, to corporations who are looking to get locally involved in a community effort. In addition, our programs keep us busy.   Summertime is crazy, but a good crazy.   From now until August, we will be involved in ConnecTeens, School Tools, Stuff the Bus and School Uniforms.  There is never a dull moment, but it is so rewarding to see all the parts and pieces come together.

Is there a specific achievement that you are the most proud of?

Well, I am happy to say that I survived my first year in the non-profit world!    I have learned so much and met so many incredible people who have been so generous to me.  At Volunteer Ascension we had an amazing year, but each success we have had is made possible by a community effort.  I am happy to be a small part of a very large team that gets things done!

 Any advice for someone wishing to follow in your footsteps?

  I think the key to being successful in non-profit is to be a “giver” by nature.  If you have a heart for service and you are continually looking for ways to help people, ways to lift others up, non-profit is truly the best of both worlds.  Making a career out of what you love to do is something we all dream of.  I had this opportunity rather late in life, and I am so incredibly grateful.  Find someone who inspires you, someone who is making a difference, and stick close to them.  Learn from them.   Never let yourself become hardened to the harsh circumstances of this “business”.  Everyone has a story.  Never get too busy to hear those stories.  Never lose your passion for compassion.