April 23, 2020
Everything But The Mime (FL)
When first presented with the opportunity to volunteer as an associate member with NACA, I must admit I was hesitant, even leaning towards feeling fearful. I was in a new job and, for the first time in my life, working in a professional setting. I had never even heard of NACA (sorry NACA!) before joining Everything But The Mime and felt I had very little to give. I was facing 50, possibly going through a mid-life crisis (okay, probably!) and searching for my little place in the world. In the end, I am very grateful I decided to fight my fears and say YES to volunteering for NACA. It has helped me survive and find my way through the past five years of my life.
My previous volunteer position was with the Orlando Gay Chorus (OGC). I was outreach coordinator for five years, and I loved every moment of representing OGC. Singing with the chorus is where I first met my friend, and my now boss, Carol Studer (owner of Everything But The Mime). During the five years I coordinated OGC events and organized outreach efforts, Carol was watching. As it turns out, without realizing it, I was auditioning to join her team. When a time came that I needed employment, Carol had already seen me in action with OGC and offered me a job. I certainly never expected my volunteer position with OGC to lead to a full-time job, let alone a new career path, but that is what happened. I know that if I had not been a volunteer with OGC for those many years, I may not have ever found Carol, NACA, and the next part of my journey.
The NACA volunteer experience has been equally rewarding, but there have also been aspects of the experience that have been surprising and unexpected. Professionally, I understand that working with colleagues and collaborating on projects is how work gets done. It takes a TEAM to produce conferences, with all members working together to reach a final goal. I have found the teamwork and the general free flow of ideas in NACA to be inspiring! In a world so often divided, the willingness to work together that I’ve experienced in NACA has been just what I’ve needed in my life.
What I’ve found most surprising is the absolute devotion to diversity in all areas of the organization, which leads to acceptance on all levels. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I usually felt I had to find others like me, to find my “family,” in order to feel accepted. But I’ve seen that NACA fosters equality and diversity at its core. From the top down, the commitment to diversity and inclusion, as part of the organization’s mission statement, has been obvious. The sense of openness and freedom in the Association has allowed me to make connections I will carry with me forever. I’ve made friends with whom I may someday, one day, climb Machu Pichu! (Yes, I do believe we will travel again.)
The ability to be open, to be myself, and to still be accepted in this organization is incredibly valuable to me. Volunteering through NACA has opened my eyes to what organizations can be, and how successful diversity initiatives do succeed. I am grateful to NACA for allowing me to find a home in which I feel truly welcome.
Sheri Kettula, an agent with Everything But the Mime, is the Facilitator for the Associate Advisory Group .