by Christina Van Pelt
Board alumni, immediate past chair, Christina Van Pelt, recently stepped down from her position. Her leadership and vision have been instrumental in the continued work of our organization. We spoke recently with Christina about her time with the National Runaway Safeline, in order to celebrate her accomplishments.
How long have you been on the board of NRS?
Six years total, 2 years as Vice Chair and 2 as Board Chair.
Why is the agency’s mission important to you?
The mission of NRS is important to me because of the invaluable service it provides to at-risk youth and their families. As a volunteer liner for 4 years, I was able to experience firsthand the numerous ways NRS fulfills its mission in keeping America’s runaway, homeless and at-risk youth safe and off the streets. This mission is very close to my heart, and it helped me come to terms with some challenges that I personally faced as a child.
What are you most proud of accomplishing during your tenure?
I am most proud of having been given the opportunity to serve this wonderful organization. NRS gave me the opportunity to challenge myself and grow as a person, to learn how to be a better board member from Maureen Blaha (an exceptional Executive Director), and to be part of a great team. I was honored to be a member of the committee to change the name from National Runaway Switchboard to National Runaway Safeline, and to serve on the Spirit of Youth Committee and the Governance Committee for many years. I am proud to have attended every board meeting for 6 years, mostly in person, a couple by phone.
How important is leadership on a nonprofit board of directors?
So many positive results come from leadership; relationship building, empowering and inspiring others, building strong connections, sharing a vision, just to name a few. Merely reaching out to serve others is a form of leadership. Board members are a team of leaders and I think it’s important for each board member to recognize their individual strengths and passions and to see how they can be incorporated with NRS to do the greatest good. Every board member can lead by example, in their own personal and unique way, and that’s what I observed with each and every NRS board member I had the privilege of working with.
Please describe your experiences working with your fellow board members.
NRS attracts incredibly passionate board members who care deeply about NRS’ mission, particularly the ones who have also served as liners. (The last several Board Chairs started out as liners.) I am extremely fortunate to have gotten to know so many of these wonderfully compassionate, talented, intelligent, enthusiastic, successful people who have selflessly given so much of their “Time, Talent, and Treasure” (as Maureen Blaha so eloquently puts it) to NRS. It has been my joy, privilege, and honor to serve with each and every one of them.
What can others do to help support the work that is being done at NRS?
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” — Helen Keller
One thing that attracted me to NRS in the first place was the chance for me to support an organization that I was passionate about, in ways other than just monetarily, although monetary involvement is always needed and important! My years as a liner were some of the hardest, albeit some of the most rewarding of my life. There were calls that will stay with me the rest of my life and I’m sure every liner would tell you the same. It’s rewarding to know that you might change the course of someone’s life during one phone call. So I would say that if you have the time to invest in the 40 hours of training to be a liner for 2 hours a week for at least a year (and those hours are completely flexible), it may be one of the most gratifying and important things you have ever done. Millennials, your skills are needed for your unique perspective of youth trends and lifestyles, and Baby Boomers, you bring valuable life experiences. All work together, young and old, as liners in the crisis center.
“When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.” — Helen Keller
If fundraising and event planning is your passion, you might want to consider serving on NRS’ Spirit of Youth Committee, to help plan the annual fundraiser. Perhaps you would like to explore joining the Associate Board or the Board of Directors. Check out NRS’ website, visit the office, set up a meeting with a staff or board member. And as always, donations in any amount are always needed and welcomed!