Margie Harris is the epitome of a community volunteer. The BellSouth retiree has been affiliated with countless organizations and served on a multitude of boards of directors throughout her life, and she’s still going strong.
Harris is currently on the boards of the YMCA Foundation, Hello GoodBuy, Coastal Outreach Soccer, Department of Family and Children Services, Quality Assurance at Southeast Georgia Health System, CASA Glynn, Glynn Visual Arts and Golden Isles Arts & Humanities. She is also active in her church, St. Paul Baptist, on St. Simons Island.
The Glynn County native grew up on St. Simons Island, and attended the Harrington School.
To Harris, leadership means giving.
“Not just your expertise to lead or mentor someone,” she said. “But really get involved and help that person.”
Getting one’s hands dirty is important, but Harris wants people to be convicted by their hearts before jumping in to help.
“Having a desire to do the work for the nonprofit, make sure your heart is in it,” she said. “Make sure the work being done pulls at your heartstrings.”
In other words, don’t just serve to fill up a schedule or make a resume look good. Make sure your heart is in the work you are doing. If you don’t, Harris said, that work is of no benefit to the person doing it, or for the organization for which it’s being done.
One of the many blessings that come with doing volunteer work is the many people you encounter along the way. Harris says she’s grown to know by sitting down at the table with them to serve.
“It is a ministry, but it’s also friendship and relationship building with others in the community,” Harris said.
When asked who had influenced her to become involved in the community around her, Harris said, “my mother,” without missing a beat.
“She was one of those ladies who knew everyone on St. Simons Island,” she said. “Every time we went into a store, we had to spend 30 minutes socializing. I have become my mother.”
Other influences include Cheri Leavy, who, while on the YWCA board recruited Harris to co-chair the annual Tribute to Women Leaders with her.
“That year, we had Debra Roberts, Al Roker’s wife, as the guest speaker,” Harris said.
Roberts is employed as a journalist with ABC News.
Other influences include Jeannie Manning, and Carolyn Hall, former executive director of the Golden Isles YWCA.
The good feeling that comes from being involved in decisions that affect the entire community is something Harris finds comforting. She says it’s good to know that projects on which she has worked have had good results.
“When you know you’ve done something good, it’s rewarding,” she said. “I want to know I’ve made a difference.”
One of her chief accomplishments was getting the Rape Crisis Center up and running after a rough patch. It’s now operated under the auspices of Safe Harbor and known as the Connie Smith Rape Crisis Center, but Harris says the period of rebuilding was extremely satisfying.
“It has to be something you’re passionate about, or it’s meaningless,” she said.
While much of the work Harris does is important, she cautions those who are interested in getting involved in volunteer work to not take themselves too seriously.
“Let there be laughter,” she said. “Always be willing to help someone every day, and look at the brighter side of things. It makes you feel good about yourself.”
Work that involves children, the elderly and animals is important to Harris.
“Those are three things that pull and tug on my heart on a daily basis,” she said. “Whatever I can do to help, I will.”
Harris has no plans to curtail her commitments.
“It’s a way of life for me,” she said. “Why stop doing what you love? I live to serve, and I love it.”
Her volunteerism has made a real difference in her life, and she sees no end to her service.
“I’m going to be around, I assure you,” she said.