Story by RYAN McDONALD
Reeling from a bad break-up in August 2010, Salt Lake Community College student Mallory Black, 23, felt as though she was just going through the motions of everyday life.
“I just wasn’t happy in general,” she said in a telephone interview. “I needed something to look forward to.”
While thumbing through a newspaper one day, Black stumbled upon an article that listed different volunteer opportunities available in the community. One particular listing caught her attention. It was a call for volunteers to help at a 5K run hosted by Friends in Need Animal Rescue, a nonprofit organization located in Eagle Mountain, Utah. Friends in Need works to raise awareness of the proper treatment of animals.
“I’ve always liked to help but I never felt like I could contribute,” Black said. “I’ve always loved animals. I thought, ‘Why not? I could do that.’”
It was a 5K that would change the course of Black’s life.
“I just loved what they were doing,” Black said about seeing Friends in Need for the first time.
A business major at the time, that experience and subsequent volunteer opportunities have caused her to want to study public relations.
“It (the 5K) made me think of the impact of newspapers,” she said. “Why was this just a little blurb? I feel like some good things don’t go to print. Not that the media should be painting this beautiful picture of the world, but it gives people hope that other people are doing good things in the world.”
In addition to causing her to think about the role of newspapers in society, the event caused Black to think about the things she could do to help.
“How could I do that?” she thought. “How could I write an article or make this 5K a bigger deal?”
Now 24 and a student at Utah Valley University, Black wants to make a career of doing PR work for nonprofit organizations. Over the last year and a half, Black has volunteered for nonprofit organizations such as the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program in Salt Lake City and the American Red Cross while continuing to help Friends in Need. She also recently worked as an intern at Salt Lake County Youth Services.
Besides her own volunteerism, the work of others has had a deep impact on Black. She particularly admires Kim and Karen O’Donnell, the directors of Friends in Need. Black referenced the fact that the O’Donnells prepare every single meal for every single animal at the sanctuary every single day.
“I’ve just been so amazed with how much heart these people have,” she said. “They literally do this every day. They are so dedicated and good in their intentions.”
Kim O’Donnell feels the same way about Black.
“We are very lucky to have her,” he said in a telephone interview. “She really likes the volunteer sector. She’s always been there for fundraising. People like her are really hard to come by.”
Although O’Donnell said that it has become easier with technology such as Facebook, he explained that it is a challenge for nonprofit organizations to get the word out to people like Black about the need for help. He said it is also challenging to spread the word about the services offered by an organization.
“If you’re just a few people, it’s a 24/7 job,” he said of the time it takes to promote Friends in Need. “Word of mouth comes into play a lot. You make do with what you have. Unless you’re a multimillion-dollar corporation, people just don’t know who you are and they probably never will.”
In a previous interview, Rose Maizner, development director of Comunidades Unidas (United Communities) in Salt Lake City, echoed O’Donnell’s struggles with trying to effectively let people know of the services a nonprofit organization provides.
CU focuses its efforts on helping immigrants and refugees find access to health care. Staff and volunteers will often go door-to-door in certain neighborhoods to spread this word. Although it can be difficult, Maizner said the organization has found such a method to be useful.
“Our organization has always been proud of our grassroots approach,” she said.
Black realizes that many nonprofit organizations don’t have the funds to pay someone to do public relations work full time, but that idea has not dissuaded her from making it an important part of her life.
“If it doesn’t work out then I definitely want to try and help out as a hobby,” she said. “I’d want to do it for free.”