Reflections from a Summer Intern

Written by Helen Phillips, Development Team Intern

When you think of a teenager’s job, you might think of a retail store or fast food restaurant. My brother, for example, worked as a “bag boy” at Richland Country Club until he left for college a few weeks ago. This summer, I had the opportunity to volunteer with the Development Team at The Next Door, and it was an experience unlike any other.

My grandmother, Candy Phillips, was one of the wild praying women. However, I never heard the term “The Next Door” until after her death in 2017. To be fair, it is a little difficult to explain to a child that her “CanCan” helps women in re-entry and addiction recovery. Wanting to learn more about the amazing life she lived, I tried to attend a few TND events with my grandfather, Bill, and mother, Kathryn, who serves on the Board. This is how I met Kate McKinnie, the Director of Development, who asked if I wanted to gain experience in the world of fundraising.

They gave me a cubicle with a desktop and a key card to get in and out of the building – I was feeling very official! The small Development Team of 3 had turned into 4, and I was immediately put to work with community outreach. I emailed churches, Chambers of Commerce, heads of high schools and colleges. I reorganized spreadsheets and donor data. I asked for donations and sold tables for the Fall Benefit. I assembled bulletin boards in residence halls. I ran the TND social media, and I assessed preliminary grant work. My favorite work was creating programs and flyers for the different events TND will host this fall. In this, I got to be creative, and I didn’t feel like an intern. Maybe you saw my program at Songwriter’s Night or the flyer for TND Homecoming! You probably saw some of my Instagram posts and stories!

Trust me when I say: there is always something going on at TND. My very first day, I was thrown into the energy of the Operations Department celebrating June birthdays with a potluck. The main dish? A homemade strawberry cake large enough to feed an army made by the one and only Wanda. Boxes and boxes of donations came in at least twice a week that had to be sorted and distributed. Walking down the hallways, I met clients who had lived a thousand lives and had a thousand stories. People wrote letters telling us how grateful they were for saving their life. I will never get over those.

Although most people my age would never dream of spending their summer at a desk earning no money, I gained so much “real work” experience that I am forever grateful for. I learned the behind the scenes of nonprofits and fundraising. I learned that sometimes you have to call someone again and again to accomplish a task. I learned that a smile goes a long way in a meeting and, no matter what, to always treat someone with respect, because you have no idea what they are going through.

Most of all, I miss my friends. I got to meet Malinda, who bravely opens every donation box and handles all volunteering on top of being a rock star liaison. There is Rachel, who manages just about everything at TND while being a mom to the most adorable girls. Ren, our tech savvy guy who loves John Mayer and never failed to mess with my laptop every time I left for the day. I’ll miss Sharon, who is so genuinely nice to everyone. In my little Development team, I miss Laryssa and her quirky food choices and her love for God. Kate, the best boss I could have asked for, who was always proud of my work and always kept an upbeat attitude. I found an office best friend in Morgan, who besides being one of the smartest people I know, is undoubtedly the bravest. I look forward to more car rides full of bad country songs.

God is present at TND; you can feel it as soon as you walk in the building. I cannot wait until I am back inside and seeing the smiles of clients and employees alike.

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