Debra Townsend, of Portage, was recently named as a shared AFL-CIO Community Services Liaison by Lake Area United Way and United Way of Porter County.
Hired as a labor liaison for United Way of Porter County in 2010, Townsend took the new position in January and now serves both agencies on a full-time basis.
Her primary goal is to be the link between organized labor groups and United Way and its agencies. “Labor has been a traditional source of support for the community and by being a liaison, I’m able to facilitate the interaction between labor and the community,” Townsend said.
“I’m working with retiree groups to find volunteer tutors for Lake and Porter schools, working with labor unions to sponsor programs in schools, and we’re starting to break ground on providing assistance to veterans’ program efforts,” she added.
An education graduate of Drake University in Iowa, Townsend attended the Labor College for Community Services School in Maryland in 2011 that provided her with Labor Liaison program fundamentals.
She also received training in disaster management from the American Red Cross and CERT training from the Porter County Emergency Management Agency.
In her new position, Townsend works not only to help union members locate resources, but to match union members with volunteer opportunities.
“I really enjoy finding solutions to community needs," she said. "Most people think positions like mine will give the ‘band aid’ or a quick fix.”
“In reality, no community need develops overnight. Building relationships and trust to solve needs will also take time.”
A former art teacher for three school systems and multiple continuing education programs in Iowa, Townsend still enjoys drawing, photography, quilting and sewing.
She is an avid bicyclist, having ridden across Iowa nine times, and enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren. She resides in Portage with her husband, Douglas.
For more information on volunteering with United Way, visit www.nwivolunteer.org/.