If you ask Jackie Norris what it’s like to come from a tradition of volunteerism that is now in its third generation, she will answer as if sharing a lifelong passion with her mother and daughter is as natural as sharing a meatloaf recipe or a pair of jeans. “I don’t know that we’ve ever stopped to think, ‘should we do this?’” she said. “We just kind of assume we should.”
Jackie and her mother were both Red Cross “Doughnut Dollies” in Vietnam and during World War II, respectively. Today, Jackie’s daughter, Elizabeth, is active in the Red Cross as a founding leader of Behind the Red. She frequently volunteers alongside her mother, who returned to the Red Cross after retiring from a 34-year career in Denver’s nonprofit world.
While Jackie says her mother’s volunteer work helped to spark her own lifelong commitment to volunteerism and professional engagement with nonprofit causes, she says she didn’t pressure her own daughter to become involved with the Red Cross. “I felt like just because I did it didn’t mean she had to be interested in it,” Jackie said, explaining that Elizabeth became involved with the organization when an opportunity came up at the Red Cross for individuals interested in working in a focus group. “It was better, from my perspective, for her to come to it on her own,” she said. Jackie also said that Elizabeth’s natural curiosity and outgoing nature “fit the profile” of volunteer work in a way that naturally led her to the same work Jackie values so much.
Jackie says that while her children were young, she was able to integrate her volunteer time with the demands of her own family. “When I was a parent of younger kids, my work was either connected to my professional volunteer work, or it was connected to their soccer teams or their schools,” she said. “You do things that are directly related to what’s important to you at the time, and at the time it was my kids. But once they go away, if you’re lucky, you have a lot of other interests and there are lots of other things to do.”
Jackie also volunteers with her husband, who is also a retiree from the nonprofit world. She also has a son, who has yet to get drawn into the world of volunteerism. But Jackie says, with a mom’s knowing tone, that this could change. “He’s got a family of his own now, and he’s starting to see the value of getting out there,” she said. “Fortunately, his wife gets it. She’ll have him out there, volunteering.”