THEY GIVE BACK

Meet the women behind the Y

Local YMCAs choose Volunteers of the Year Jo Ann Sheppard, Karol Ann Dickinson receive honor

Karol Ann Dickinson is the Forsyth County YMCA Volunteer of the Year.
Jo Ann Sheppard was recently named the Ed Isakson/Alpharetta YMCA Volunteer of the Year.
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By KATHLEEN STURGEON
Posted
When you are blessed, you need to give back to those who are less fortunate.”
Karol Ann Dickinson, Forsyth County YMCA Volunteer of the Year

As an organization that relies on assistance, both with people, time and money, the YMCA of Metro Atlanta sees nearly 8,000 volunteers every year. Through that crowd, some have stood out to the Ed Isakson/Alpharetta and Forsyth County locations staff which recently chose the Volunteers of the Year.

Karol Ann Dickinson Forsyth County YMCA

Can you tell me about yourself, including your history with the Y?  

I was in residential property management in Florida and Georgia, real estate sales, mortgage banking for 35 years, then handled marketing and community outreach for a pediatric dental/orthodontic practice. I was first invited to be on the Forsyth County Y Board of Directors in 2005. I have chaired the Board Development Committee and actively participated on the “Golf for Kids” event committee since its inception. This year, it earned $52,400 toward the kids’ scholarship program. A lot of my Y involvement was aided through my business relationships, i.e., I brought oral hygiene care presentations to the Eagle Point summer Y camps in addition to sponsoring oral hygiene screenings for kids entering the Georgia public school system. I am also a member of the Membership Committee and have helped facilitate expansion of the Youth Fit 4 Life program in the Forsyth County Schools.

What do you think sets you apart and helped you earn this honor?  

Utilizing my contacts and relationships in the business community to their fullest, coupled with the fact that the Y, what it stands for and what it gives back to our community and all around the world, is an easy sell.  

What’s the best part about volunteering for the Y?

I believe the Y is different from other organizations because the Y is so totally focused on the holistic approach for the health of kids and their families. The concern is not only the health of the body, but the health of the soul, body and mind and taking into account even the social factors that affect people and their lives. The Y’s “never turn anyone away” approach is an approach worth selling and inspires people to give to our fundraising efforts. That’s why a board member’s job is so important. We have so much conflict in our lives today. It’s so special and invigorating to see the smile on a kid’s face who has been given the opportunity to attend summer camp or participate in a soccer game when, in his/her mind, he/she might never be good enough to go to camp or compete. The Y, through the scholarship program, gives those kids the opportunity to realize their potential, so he/she can achieve, be confident and feel that they are a gift from God and that they can succeed in anything they choose to do or be. All of this contributes to the wellbeing of the child. And, aligning with that story come the parents who are given the opportunity to see their children succeed, which gives them hope for their future.

Why do you volunteer for the Y?

When you are blessed, you need to give back to those who are less fortunate. The Y is my avenue for achieving that goal. Volunteering with the Y gives me the opportunity to give back and it makes me feel like I’m making a difference.

Jo Ann Sheppard Ed Isakson/Alpharetta YMCA

Can you tell me about yourself, including your history with the Y?

My first exposure to Y was as a kid in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.
My brothers and I went to the Y every Saturday for swimming lessons and kid programs. I later went on to participate in the Teen Leaders program and worked at the John Island summer camp. When I moved to Alpharetta, the Y just seemed like the natural place to go.

Current YMCA involvement:

Advisory Board member since 2010
Advisory Board chair 2015, 2016
Chair, Board Development Committee 2017 - current
Child and Youth Development Committee member 2015 - current
Participate in various group classes, including masters swim and group cycle

What do you think sets you apart and helped you earn this honor?

Board activities, helped organize past spin-a-thons, past three community golf events, healthy kids day, bird house building projects, picnic table painting for Camp Big Creek.

What’s the best part about volunteering for the Y?

The Y has a real sense of community. It’s welcoming and inviting. If someone has a challenge, the branch rallies around them. It’s that level of comradery that helps get me to my early morning workouts when I would rather just sleep in.
On several occasions, I have worked with other volunteers to spread truckloads of mulch at Camp Big Creek to get ready for the summer camp. Throughout the summer, I see laughing kids having fun with their councilors and fellow campers. I know that mulch supported thousands of small feet who experienced a wonderful and impactful summer.

Why do you volunteer for the Y?

Volunteering at the Y keeps me grounded. I enjoy knowing that we have made an impact on the lives of people in our community. Growing up, my mother was an active volunteer at the Y.  She instilled in her children the importance of caring and giving back. Now it is time for me to pay it forward. The cycle continues with my husband and my two daughters now participating in Y activities and volunteer opportunities. Volunteering as a family has brought us closer together. It has allowed us to teach our daughters that there are others in our community who need assistance to be able to enjoy the Y programs that my kids take for granted. ■

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