Lisa Park Laflin of New Vineyard, the executive director of the United Way of the Tri-Valley area, is seen here at a backpack stuffing event. The organization gives out nearly 700 backpacks with school supplies every year. Submitted photo

FARMINGTON —Lisa Park Laflin of New Vineyard has always wanted to help others learning as a young child from the example her parents set.

Lisa Park Laflin of New Vineyard enjoys helping people in many ways including in her position as the executive director of the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area in Farmington. Submitted photo

She has been the executive director of the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area, which serves the greater Franklin County area, for 13 years.

Laflin says she “oversees the strategic direction of the organization and all aspects of the organization’s mission to improve people’s lives.”

Something she is very proud of is that the organization helps support 211 – a 24/7 helpline that connects callers to local resources. Information can also be texted to people if they text their zip code to 898-211 or accessed on the newly designed website at 211main.org. More than 90,000 calls were fielded regarding the pandemic alone. That was on top of all the calls for assistance with utility payments, mental health  resources, rental assistance, and help with fuel and shelter, she wrote in an email as part of this interview.

“I have also taken great pride in being an organization that provides really robust opportunities for students and volunteers to learn more about the nonprofit sector and their chosen interests such as community health, rehab, or marketing,” Laflin wrote.

In her spare time, she repurposes furniture and upcycles almost anything. She and her husband, Brent, built a tiny house on their property out of recycled materials and are currently renting it out to folks through a site called hipcamp.com.

Why did you pursue a career that helps others? I have always enjoyed helping others and my interest was really fostered by my parents when I was very young. My parents were very involved in the community and it always seemed very natural for me to give back. My formal education is in English and art history and I gravitated to jobs where I could not only use skills I had acquired, but jobs where I could be immersed in community work and making a difference. I am not sure I made a conscious choice to pursue a career that helps others, but feel as though my various careers chose me.

Lisa Park Laflin of the United Way in Franklin County, left, and Wendy Oakley are seen in June at the Free Lunch Program, which the agency provides funding for, at the Old South First Congregational Church in Farmington. Submitted photo

Is it hard to organize everything that you feel needs to be done? Some days can certainly be overwhelming. There is so much to be done on a day-to-day basis but also on a strategic, long-term basis. I am fortunate to have an excellent team that helps organize all aspects of the work we do, as well as a committed board and fantastic volunteers. I am the kind of person that gets great satisfaction out of sorting her Tupperware drawer so all the lids match. I always have lists of things I need to do ready to be checked off on the kitchen island; files on my phone that I can usually get to when I need them; and Christmas presents in a closet ready to go in July!  I enjoy being organized and organizing, so the job is a good fit for me. That said, we are a small but mighty organization that serves all of Franklin County as well as Livermore and Livermore Falls. That’s 40,000 people from the Canadian border to the outskirts of Lewiston served by the three staff, so we can ALWAYS use more help.

How much money is raised on average and how much is dispersed? United Way of the Tri-Valley Area raises on average close to half-a-million dollars a year in cash, which is comprised of individual gifts, workplace campaign contributions, grants, corporate gifts, and revenue from special events. In addition, we report to the community how much was raised in in-kind goods and services (such as the contribution of a backpack and school supplies or an auction item) as well as the value of volunteer service. On average, an additional quarter-of-a-million dollars is generated in goods and services and volunteer time. 99% of every dollar donated remains local and is reinvested in our community.

We are currently funding 14 Community Partners ranging from Safe Voices and Sexual Assault Prevention and Responses Services to Meals on Wheels and Literacy Volunteers. This past year we have distributed just over $100,000 in Very Basics Fund allocations to support 39 programs.

Not all of United Way’s significant impact can be seen in the direct disbursement of dollars. For example, we recently completed a successful tax season where we prepared more than 400 tax returns and connected people to tax credits and community resources. More than $517,000 in credits and refunds were secured.

What do you personally get out of your work besides a salary? The satisfaction of helping individuals and organizations thrive and working collaboratively with incredible people is very satisfying. I grew up in this community, and helping to make it the place that I, my family, and others want to live is also important to me. I also am continually learning a lot about myself, community needs, and ways to successfully create positive change. The work I do is never static and keeps me engaged.

Is there any particular memory of helping someone or an organization in need that stands out in your mind? There are really so many memories that it is hard to focus on just one. One is the establishment of the HOPE Fund, which expanded the United Way model to be able help young people 17 and under with up to $200 so they can attend a summer camp, take therapeutic horseback riding lessons, or register for football or other sports. . . . Sometimes it is not the big picture that gives me a lasting memory. Sometimes it is looking back on the ability to listen and provide hope to those who hit a rough spot. The couple that I gave professional clothing to that had been at the homeless shelter comes to mind. They were leaving the shelter and seeking employment, having met their goals and were so proud and happy to be on the path to financial security.

Have you set goals for yourself and the organization to accomplish? Yes. In order to most effectively invest our resources to be the most impactful organization possible, the board of United Way of the Tri-Valley Area has recently approved a new strategic plan. This will be shared in detail with our Community Partners, nonprofits, and donors in the coming months. The key goals include: increasing mobility focusing on increasing transportation options; increasing financial stability by funding programs that prepare teens and young adults for the financial realities of their transition into the job force or post-secondary education; collaborating with organizations to develop financial literacy and improve employability and marketability skills in youth and adults; and fund programs that raise youth aspirations.


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