McKinnis uses her free time to give back

Published 10:25 pm Sunday, September 10, 2017

As a customer service representative for Entergy, Shelia McKinnis is responsible for answering the utility’s residential and commercial customers’ questions and providing what assistance she can to help them resolve problems involving their service.

But outside of her daily duties, she has another occupation that may be just as important as a volunteer for the Salvation Army, United Way of West Central Mississippi and as a board member for the Vicksburg-Warren and Port Gibson Chambers of Commerce.

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Her first encounter with the area’s service agencies began soon after she arrived to take over her position two years ago, when she presented a $7,500 check from Entergy to the Salvation Army for its food pantry.

It began a sequence of events that led to her becoming a member of the United Way Board of Directors.

“I was invited to one of the (Salvation Army Auxiliary) meetings,” McKinnis said. “I joined the auxiliary after I went to the meeting and got to know some of the ladies.”

Since joining, she has been involved with the organization’s soccer camp, Angel Tree, bell ringing, back to school book program, its Soup and Sandwich fundraiser and the 9/11 breakfast.

She said she enjoys working with the soccer camp and being with the children.

“I don’t know much about soccer, but I was able to help putting on shoes, and giving them water and helping serve food,” she added.

“The women in the auxiliary really inspired me,” she said. “They work hard at what they do. I did volunteer with the thrift store. You don’t think about it, but volunteering is not easy work. You’re putting in some sweat and muscle, and those ladies do a great job.”

Entergy, she said, is a big supporter of United Way and the Salvation Army, “And I’m very fortunate to be part of a company that believes so heartily in giving back and helping the community where there’s a need. And being in the position that I’m in, I can see firsthand the need.”

Joining United Way, she said, allowed her to learn about its partner agencies.

She became a mentor with the CAP Center, and mentored a girl in elementary school for a year.

“I would go to the school and meet with her for an hour. I did that once a week during the school year. It was a chance to talk with her and just be someone there for her to talk to.”

McKinnis was asked to join the United Way board by United Way’s director, Michele Connelly.

“I’m starting my second year on the board, and this year is on the executive board,” she said. The board oversees the organization’s operation and helps with funding decisions.

She has also participated in the organization’s annual Color Run.

McKinnis succeeded her predecessor on the Vicksburg-Warren Chamber board.

She was asked to join the board after a meeting with then-chamber president Lynn Foley.

“Being on the board gives me an opportunity to meet people, but also an opportunity to see the bigger picture of Vicksburg and what Entergy can do to help with the growth and the development of the community. I get to hear a lot of what’s going on,” she said.

And serving on two chamber boards, she said, keeps her busy. She said Entergy encourages its employees to volunteer.

“They offer an incentive that if you volunteer personal time, you can earn up to $750 a year for your favorite nonprofit organization, so that’s an incentive for us to volunteer,” she said.

But, she added, she doesn’t need an incentive to be involved in the community.

“I have volunteered in the past. I relocated here from Little Rock, and when I was there, whenever I got an opportunity to volunteer, I would. But with the position I’m in now, I’m in a position to volunteer more than I had in my other position. My other position, I was glued to my desk and to the phone, so it had to be on a Saturday or after hours. Now, whenever something is available weekends and after hours, I take advantage of that.”

But giving service to others McKinnis said, was instilled in her at an early age.

“It was instilled in me as a little girl, watching my grandparents. They actually raised me, and they were hard working people, and I saw when they reached out and helped others. We didn’t have a garden, we had three fields, and whenever we did that (raised vegetables), we reached out to others anyway we could help.

“The best thing about volunteering is having a sense of being able to help someone that maybe less fortunate, but also for the fact that you can’t take what you have for granted, because some day you might be in that same position, and you may need that same help. I think that’s a big part of why I do it.” 

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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