Looking back at decades of volunteer activities, Meg Downs recalls a major gathering that she coordinated in Asheville, NC, when she was active with the University of North Carolina Medical School’s Family Support Network. The International Parent to Parent Conference brought together more than 500 families from around the world to connect, learn, and celebrate with others faced with the challenges of supporting individuals with special needs.
She remembers that many staff members at the upscale hotel were apprehensive about their ability to meet the needs of visiting guests and their families.
“We brought a team of people – including folks who were visually or hearing impaired, some with limited mobility, including people with cerebral palsy, and some in wheelchairs,” she said. “When we gathered and the staff met our team, the entire atmosphere was transformed,” she said. “They made personal connections with one another, and the staff began to understand how important a strong support network is to serve this community. It was a beautiful experience.”
Over the years, career moves took Meg and her husband David to various cities where they gained professional experience working with a range of organizations. Wherever they lived, Meg was active in groups serving those with disabilities. “Supporting these individuals and their families has always been close to my heart,” she says. “When we moved to Richmond, I wanted to get involved and soon became active with ARC. At that time our niece Kate was volunteering at Camp Baker, and I saw how these programs and services touched the lives of so many in our community.”
Meg has been a SOAR365 board member for more than a decade. During that tenure she has served on the development committee, finance committee and the executive board. One of her biggest achievements was chairing the fundraising campaign that generated more than $3 million to build the popular PARK365 recreational facility.
After years of working with many different types of organizations, Meg determined that her skills were ideally suited for business development. As a consultant, she partners with several local small businesses in advancing their goals and objectives. As a volunteer, she is particularly attracted to SOAR365’s business model and its strategic planning capabilities.
“Managing successful business ventures that generate revenue to fund services for program participants and their families – it’s a great model for this organization,” said Meg. “This is exciting, challenging, rewarding – and sustainable!”
She is highly complimentary of the organization’s leadership team, particularly after seeing how SOAR365 successfully navigated the difficult challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m delighted to be moving into this new role on the board,” she said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to strengthen personal connections and relationships now that we are moving back to in-person meetings and activities after the pandemic. As we get to know one another better, I believe we will develop an even stronger board and build on a wonderful record of serving individuals with disabilities and their families.”
Speaking of families, Meg is devoted to her growing crew – which includes her husband David, (also a strong advocate of SOAR365 in the Richmond community), their two children, two in-law children, and six grandchildren. “It’s safe to say that I am loving spending time playing with my grandchildren!” she says.