Sara A. Ballard Volunteerism Fund

This fund gives scholarships to people attending the National Conference on Volunteering and Service who have only two to three years of experience in the field of volunteerism.

“We felt the more seasoned individuals would already have their way paid to the conference,” said Nancy Ballard, Sara’s mom. “This is the type of individual Sara would want to take with her when she attended the conference.” The fund also supports schools in Washington and Michigan that undertake a “day of caring” project.

Sara Ballard’s life was devoted to service. The Williamston High School and Alma College alum worked for the Volunteer Centers of Michigan, the American Red Cross and was the executive director of the Volunteer Center of Lewis, Mason and Thurston Counties in Olympia, Wash.

When Sara suffered a stroke and died at the age of 36 in 2011, her parents, Jim and Nancy, thought the best way to honor their daughter was by establishing an endowment fund in her name that gives other young people the opportunity to learn more about the power of service.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."

— Memorial at the first Washington middle school to implement a day of caring in Sara Ballard’s honor

“Sara’s genuine passion for volunteerism created a space at the Volunteer Center for people like me to be filled with encouragement, support and information,” said Breezie O’Neill, community development manager for the Girl Scouts of Western Washington.

O’Neill attended the National Conference on Volunteering and Service thanks to funding from Sara’s endowment. “By sharing her knowledge and being a champion for volunteerism, Sara unlocked the potential of countless individuals. She is greatly missed.”

Jim said he and Nancy were surprised and amazed by how many lives Sara touched in her 36 years.

“As her dad, I had no idea,” Jim said. “She passed away on a Tuesday, and on Thursday there was a memorial service with hundreds of people. She had only been in that community for two years, and in Washington for only four years and had that kind of impact.”

“There is not a better place than the Capital Region Community Foundation to house the contributions from friends and family for the Sara A. Ballard Volunteerism Fund,” Nancy said. “The Community Foundation’s mission to help donors change the lives of thousands of people in our community is an effort Sara was so passionate about.”

After her death, Jim and Nancy found Sara’s bucket list. One item on her list was to leave a legacy. “The Capital Region Community Foundation will help do just that,” Nancy said.

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