Local attorney Erin Christy discovered her love of giving back at an early age. And in a city where philanthropy is dominated by people with years of experience, Christy says it’s important for younger people to give back, too.
Name: Erin Christy
Occupation: Real estate attorney at Williams Parker Harrison Dietz & Getzen
Years involved in Sarasota: 6 years
Current organizations: Junior League of Sarasota, Ringling College Library Association and The Florida Bar Foundation
My first volunteer experience was a trike-a-thon. My mother was a volunteer substitute teacher at our school, and I wanted to help with anything she did. I was in the first grade, and I remember being really excited because my brother was in it, and I got to help hand out water with the adults. I remember thinking how neat it was to be looked up to by the little kids.
I first got involved with Junior League when I moved back from college. I’m from Sarasota, but just because you grew up here doesn’t mean you have that sense of community when you move back. I found that in Junior League. Through that organization, there were a lot of women I looked up to — women who were starting nonprofits or elevating ones to another level. Seeing that made me realize I wanted to help be that change as well.
Volunteering is something I’ve grown into and developed a passion for as a result of understanding the mission of the organizations to which I give my time and dollars. This year, I co-chaired the Pro Bono and Service Luncheon, put on by the Young Lawyers Division of the Sarasota County Bar Association. During the lunch, we witnessed service organizations make connections and form partnerships that hadn’t happened before. Watching partnerships form that will benefit our community down the road gives you great insight to the future.
A lot of times, people my age are just dipping their toes into the nonprofit world, and it’s very event-driven. With my training and background in the nonprofit world, I’m really focused more on board activities. I’m one of the youngest members on the Ringling College Library Association board. They have experienced such tremendous growth and have been wanting to get this active young audience to be more engaged. Youth energy and experience helps energize boards in that way.
I’ve learned that people have different talents, and you should try to surround yourself with people who complement your weaknesses and play to your strengths. Learning that I’m not a weaker person because I can’t do it all has been huge in my development as a volunteer.
Whether it’s at work or in a volunteer situation, young people do need to lean in and speak up. Your ideas have worth and should be a part of the conversation. Early on in my volunteer work, I was nervous to speak up because I felt like I was overreaching, but eventually I found that confidence, and when I offered my ideas, the others were very warm and receptive. Confidence is key, and everyone can bring ideas to the table.
It’s important to set an example, not only for children, but also for your peers and even those people generations ahead of you. People are busy and can hold back, but we all have so much to give. It’s important to set an example that you can be young, professionally driven and career-oriented and still find the time to give and volunteer.