Feeding the Need: Liz Hawthorne
The Mid-South has a lot of hungry people these days. And they need our help. It takes a special person to devote time and energy to help meet that need.
Liz Hawthorne, a Computer Software Specialist, started her career at Memphis Light, Gas and Water as a part-time contract employee in 1990 in Facility Information Systems. She was still a student and was hired as an auto-cad administrator converting paper maps to digital maps on computer. She became a permanent employee in FIS in 2002, and in 2010 moved to Third Party Software Support in Data Analytics and Software Integration.
Operation Feed, a campaign to collect food and donations for the Mid-South Food Bank, was Liz’s first volunteer experience at MLGW when she served as a key person for her area at MLGW’s Netters Business Center in 2003. She liked the program so much that she became campaign co-chair in 2006, the same year she joined the Food Bank’s Steering Committee. Liz has been MLGW’s Op Feed co-chair ever since, and this year she helped pilot the program to a total of $30,000 raised, all from MLGW employee donations.
Operation Feed used to take a lot of donations of canned food that employees brought in. But recently the campaign has requested monetary donations. “One reason we do that,” Liz says, “is because the Food Bank can buy in bulk and get great discounts straight from suppliers. One dollar donated equals four dollars of food. And all of Operation Feed’s donations go directly to buy food while staff salaries are grant-funded.”
The Food Bank also has a backpack program where children pick up backpacks containing food for the weekend. “For some kids the only food they get is at school,” Liz points out. “Breakfast, lunch… So we make sure they have food over the weekend in those backpacks.”
You can tell Liz is dedicated. “I just don’t think anyone should be hungry,” she insists. “If we can just skip lunch one day, we can donate five dollars, which becomes twenty at the Food Bank. No one should ever go to bed hungry.”
Operation Feed is not Liz’s only volunteer effort. She has participated in MLGW’s Special Olympics SportsFest as a scorekeeper and ref, staffed MLGW info booths at the Vesta Home Show and Delta Fair, participated in the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, joined in MLGW’s and the Heart Association’s Heart Walks, Career Day at Southwind High School and Big Scoop for St. Jude, and much more. “If I see an e-mail asking for help,” she says, “and if I’m available and feel it in my heart, I’ll volunteer.”
Liz enjoys Special Olympics and the sheer joy and determination the competitors get out of it. “So amazing, looking at the kids – they’re so competitive,” she recalls. “One volleyball player, Damien, would glare at the other team, yelling, ‘You goin’ down!’ Problem was, they’d hit the ball at him and it would go right past without him hitting it, and he’d yell again, ‘You goin’ down!’ They have such a good time!”
Liz started volunteering as a high school student in Jackson, Tennessee, and Special Olympics was her first experience – one she really enjoyed. Thanks to her kids, Liz was a Girl Scout leader for six years, and helped with Boy Scouts, too. (Her son just earned Eagle Scout.) She teaches Children’s Church at Brown Baptist where she also donates to LifeBlood. And she was chairperson for friend and fellow MLGW employee Weslynn Bates’ heart transplant. Weslynn is doing fine, by the way, 12 years after her surgery.
“We do a lot more (at MLGW) than a lot of larger companies do,” says Liz. “Many corporations do one big event. We do big events and a lot of smaller projects, too. Being part of United Way helps. We have a very giving employee base.”
“I get a joy of satisfaction seeing people getting the help they need,” she says. To potential volunteers, Liz suggests, “Volunteer for something you like. If you do it from the heart, you’ll have a better chance of success. And you’ll love it!” Good advice from someone who is so dedicated to feeding the need.