The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
‘Visionary’ volunteer is a celebrity
By CATHY DYSONA story in the Rappahannock United Way newsletter called Cathy Davis “a celebrity among us.”
Davis is a volunteer who works behind the scenes with various nonprofit agencies.
Recently, she was one of 40 volunteers from across the country recognized by Cabot Creamery Cooperative, Vermont farmers who make cheese.
Cabot, in partnership with the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, wants to promote the idea that volunteers are the real celebrities in communities like Fredericksburg.
In September, the creamery will give its honorees the red-carpet treatment during a cruise to Alaska.
Davis is thrilled. She and her husband, Ron, look forward to spending time with other like-minded volunteers and hearing their strategies and ideas.
But the attention that has come with the award has made Davis uncomfortable. She’d much rather be in the background than the forefront.
“I’m embarrassed about the publicity because that’s not why I volunteer,” Davis said.
Davis, 58, was reluctant to be interviewed—and agreed only after her husband convinced her that she might inspire someone else.
“That’s what I really want to come out of this,” stressed Davis, who lives in Spotsylvania County.
But a story about the consummate volunteer cannot be told without mentioning her accomplishments.
In the decade she’s lived in the Fredericksburg area, she’s been on the United Way board for nine years and served as chairman for two.
She came up with the idea to focus giving, not so much on individual groups, but on services offered. She led the effort to categorize help into three areas: education, income and health.
Davis also created the program that recognizes givers who donate more than $1,000 annually.
“I see her as a visionary,” said Janel
Donohue, president of the United Way. “She has a positive vision for how an agency can grow and be better and help more people.”
Davis uses skills from the working world to help with her volunteering. She earned degrees in interior design and marketing from the University of Nebraska and worked in sales, management and marketing for two Fortune 500 companies for 20 years.
She stopped when she and her husband adopted their son, Nick, from Ukraine.
She thought she might go back to work when he graduated from high school.
Instead, she devoted herself even more to work that didn’t include a paycheck.
“I know it sounds funny,” she said, “but I consider it my full-time job.”
‘LUCKY TO HAVE HER’
Nick is 19 and attends Hampden–Sydney College.
When he was at James Monroe High School, his mother mentored three female students through the League of
Extraordinary Young Women. She saw them become the first in their families to go to four-year colleges.
Davis also spent two years as president of Women in the Giving Spirit, a group that “checks its egos at the door,” she said, and raises money for nonprofit groups.
“She has a reputation for getting things done, and in a room full of extraordinary women, that says a lot,” said Teri McNally, executive director of the Community Foundation of the Rappahannock River Region. “Our community is lucky to have her.”
Davis was a charter member of the foundation’s Women and Girls Fund, which hopes to create an annuity by having 1,000 women donate $1,000 each. She recently offered to put together bylaws for the group and develop a new board to guide the fund, which gives grants to area programs that help women and girls.
“We’re very excited to have her put to use all the talents that she possesses,” McNally said.
HER WORK ‘WAS A GIFT’
Davis is more than just a board member who attends meetings. She tries to limit her service to two boards at a time so she can devote the necessary hours to each.
For instance, she just finished her two-year chairmanship of the United Way. As head of the board, she automatically belonged to the agency’s eight committees and attended as many meetings as possible to understand their mission.
Davis often is still up at midnight, drafting emails about plans and ideas. She sometimes sends out the notes the next day because she doesn’t want others to think she’s one of those people who’s up at all hours.
“I often get emails from her at 11, 12, 1 o’clock in the morning,” Donohue said. “She puts so many hours into her work, it’s almost like she’s another staff member.”
Davis had been a volunteer with the Rappahannock Council on Domestic Violence and recognized the group needed a more cheerful office space and a fresh name.
When she approached Kathy Anderson, the group’s executive director, about providing a new identity and a fresh look for the group,
Anderson said it was an offer she couldn’t refuse.
“Someone to come along and take the lead was a gift,” Anderson said.
When the marketing committee Davis led agreed to the new name of Empowerhouse, Davis lined up business people who donated tens of thousands of dollars for new business cards, signs, trademark research and for items needed for the open house.
Davis also helped pick the colors and design for the agency’s new office, in the former Virginia Heartland Bank Building on U.S. 1 and Harrison Road.
Davis bubbled with excitement as she described Empowerhouse’s transformation. No doubt, she’ll bring the same enthusiasm to other projects.
“What could be better than working in the community you love,” she said, “with people who are providing services to those who really need it?”