Prentiss volunteers to serve as city rep for United Way
Published 7:42 pm Sunday, October 29, 2017
As administrative assistant for North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield, Regina Prentiss keeps his calendar, answers calls and keeps her boss up-to-date on the problems in his ward.
And then there is her second city job. This one pays her no salary, but in many ways helps her play an important role in the community.
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Prentiss is the city’s representative for the United Way of West Central Mississippi; a job that involves spreading the word about United Way’s partner agencies and their impact in the community, and asking her 499 co-workers to support United Way.
It all began with a telephone call four years ago.
“I received a call from one of the ladies at United Way asking me if I would mind being a representative for the city,” she said. “I was surprised, really, because I had just made it up here, and it kind of caught me off guard. And the way I am, it was hard for me to turn down, especially being in the alderman’s office. I felt I had to represent the city.
“I’ve settled into the role. Every year they send me an email, asking if I would like to be a part of the cabinet of the next campaign, and I accept with honor.”
As the city’s representative, Prentiss meets with the United Way campaign cabinet twice a month to discuss ways to handle the campaign.
“We talk about ways to go out and encourage employees to volunteer for United Way,” she said. “Whether its through donations or volunteering their services. Either way, it has a great impact on the United Way’s services.”
When she began as the city’s representative, Prentiss said, she sent letters with the contribution forms to each city department head, explaining why employees should donate and to requesting a meeting with the department’s employees.
“Over the years of doing the same thing, I changed things up,” she said. “I would hear from employees, ‘Why should I give to United Way?’ And then I would hear the stories, ‘I went to United Way and they never gave me anything, and I’d try to tell them, it’s not United Way, it’s the agencies they serve; where your dollar goes.
“You just can’t say United Way didn’t give me anything, and I try to get that message out to them, because some of them had negative thoughts. United Way oversees. It’s behind the scenes with the agencies they serve.”
Some employees, Prentiss said, receive the message well and they realize United Way is not the one stop agency they thought it was. Prentiss said she and either United Way director Michele Connelly or Heidi Burrell go to the different departments.
Some departments, she said, are difficult to reach because of their size, and because of the employees’ hours, like the fire and police departments.
“The police department, they’re on watches, so you have to go at 6:30 in the morning, 6:30 in the afternoon. I’ve reached out to them and they received it pretty well. There’s 500 employees in the city, and I have to reach everyone,” Prentiss said.
Prentiss said she enjoys working with United Way.
“It’s meeting people, trying to see how we can benefit the United Way. Working with the staff; they have a good group of people to pull everything together.”
And her association with United Way serves her well in her job in Mayfield’s office.
“People will call at work asking for help, and I’ll tell them an agency or I will give them the number to United Way to call for help,” she said. “Because I work with United Way, it’s another way to get out and tell them about the agency. One thing about being a part of United Way, you get to know the agencies they represent and know what the agency is about and send them to the agency.”
She said a previous job with the Vicksburg Police Department in some ways influenced her to help with United Way.
“Working at the police station, I met the public. I’m the kind of person who listens to people and tries to see how I can help them, and being in the alderman’s office, that’s what they were calling for. And to see how you can help them or how the alderman can help them,” Prentiss said.
Working with the police department, she said, she saw problems like domestic abuse, and realized that United Way helps with programs that can assist victims.
“You want to see how you can help people. I always try to find a way to help people if I can,” she said.
Working through the city and meeting with people, she said, gives her a chance to show them what United Way is all about, and tells them if they are unable to donate money to volunteer to volunteer their time, adding, “Volunteering makes a big impact as well.”
And Prentiss plans to continue sending the message of United Way for as long as she can.
“As long as they have me, I’ll do it,” Prentiss said.