The Power of Volunteering

This spring, United Way is supporting kindergarten readiness by hosting a book drive to collect materials for literacy kits, which we will distribute to schools in areas of need throughout the region. We invited Lori Engelhardt, one of our dedicated volunteers, to tell us about her experience. Keep reading to learn about the power of donating your time to United Way. For more information, visit our Volunteer/Events page or email

I have been a United Way supporter for more than 10 years, but usually only as a donor. After moving to the Richmond area a few years ago and joining United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg’s Women’s Leadership Council, I became active in volunteering. Being involved in preparing the United Way Literacy Kits has been one of my favorite activities! To me, education is the most important thing after ensuring people’s basic needs are met. No one can take your education away from you, and it opens you up to so many opportunities. These kits represent the first step toward setting kids on the path to success in education, which is why this work is so important in our community.

I’ve had the privilege of being involved with United Way Literacy Kits assembly and distribution for the last two years. For the first year, a few colleagues and I collected items – books, pencils, notebooks etc. – and had a wonderful time assembling kits at work to be donated. However, last year I also participated in the final assembly party, where we added books, reference materials and cards with words of encouragement for the kindergartners. The event was a great way to meet people from different companies who share the same passion for promoting early childhood education as I do.

During this assembly party, I was assigned the role of Assembly Line Manager, which afforded me the unique perspective of seeing the entire operation in progress. If a bottleneck developed in the line, I had the authority to stop the operation and resolve the issue. As I was restocking supplies to keep the line moving, I could see box after box being filled and staged for delivery to the schools. The sight was overwhelming. Time flew by quickly and before we knew it, we had reached the end of our scheduled time. We had completely assembled and boxed around 700 kits – about half of the total that United Way put together. Many of us were so energized by what we had accomplished, we wanted to stay and keep assembling kits. However, it was late, and we knew there was another event planned to finish the work. Although we were tired from the fun, activity-filled evening, it was an amazing sight to see all the completed boxes ready to be delivered to the schools! More importantly, we understood the impact those kits would have on the children who received them.

If you are looking for a rewarding activity to get involved with that has an impact in your community, I highly recommend reaching out to United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg. This month, you can help with the Literacy Kits – but volunteer opportunities are available throughout the year. I’m excited about DuPont’s collection campaign for the kits, and I’m looking forward to participating in the assembly party again this year!  See you there!

Lori Engelhardt graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in Chemical Engineering. She has worked for DuPont for 15 years at various manufacturing plants across the US. She is currently the Safety, Health, and Environmental Leader for the Tyvek® business at DuPont’s Richmond plant. Lori enjoys watching sports, traveling internationally and exploring new restaurants and craft beverages while spending time with friends and family.