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Volunteer Spotlight | Francesca Martin

Updated: Apr 11

As someone who has lived in a variety of different communities across the US, Francesca knows one thing to be true: connection is key. And as a CIUW volunteer, Francesca has witnessed firsthand how our commitment to one another and our wider community can change lives.

How do you feel the Cape & Islands United Way is unique in its approach to the cause?

At the heart of how the Cape & Islands United Way makes such a difference is in the power of relationships – and recognizing that putting people at the center of the solutions is what can truly move the needle on some of our most challenging problems.

As someone who has lived in different parts of the country over the course of my life – in the New York/New Jersey metro area, in New England, in the Pacific Northwest, and now my home here on the Cape – I have come to appreciate that through all of our differences, one of the most grounding and impactful experiences we have is our ability to connect with each other and, even more important, how we those connections can lead to actions.

The Cape & Islands United Way embodies that understanding in what it does and how it does it. Always engaging with and broadening its network of connections. Expanding the meaning and impact of ‘community’ with activities, forums, and events that invite and include representation from the full richness of our Cape & Islands communities. Inviting ideas and contributions and commitments from everyone; and, of course, channeling all of this in ways that make the most impact in the lives of our neighbors and community members.

And sometimes making a difference is all about listening and learning…to truly understand what is needed, where are the gaps, and what can meaningfully help to resolve a family’s challenge (or crisis). As a volunteer I have seen firsthand how Cape & Islands United Way brings those qualities front and center: listening to and learning from people whose lives are under stress; listening to the mission-based nonprofits who are deeply engaged in responding to so many different kinds of challenges; and learning from and creating learning opportunities for donors, volunteers, partners and all those whose contributions support and sustain this essential work.

What motivated you to become a volunteer?

In all honesty, my decision to volunteer with C&I United Way was almost a ‘no-brainer’!

My first experience with United Way was as a nonprofit leader in Connecticut, working with our local United Way to engage community partners in developing a better response to critical local housing needs.

When I moved to the West Coast, my United Way relationship shifted as I joined the ranks of many other housing nonprofits seeking financial (and other) support. And what a great opportunity that was to also broaden my network of connections – both with other nonprofits and also with community members interested in learning about and contributing to solving these different needs and challenges.

And returning to Cape Cod has been like coming home again. I spent childhood summers here, and now am privileged to be here across the seasons. And I also reconnected with family members who have called Cape Cod “home” for multiple generations. From these and many others in my life, I have acquired an appreciation for the unique beauty of this place (Cape Cod), and a recognition of the importance of being interested in and caring about one another, and that includes family, friends, and neighbors. So connecting with Cape & Islands United Way has been, of course, an important part of that for me.

In what ways do you feel personally connected to the organization’s cause or mission?

I’ll start with how I feel personally invested in the work of Cape & Islands United Way because that is both very present in me – and speaks to my past. I feel a kinship in values and priorities with Cape & Islands United Way. Namely, that we have a degree of responsibility for each other and for our shared ‘home’, in this case, Cape Cod. For example, having lived all of my adult life in cities (up to now), I have a lot of appreciation for the profound differences, and beauty, of the environments and landscapes here on the Cape. And deeply aware of the importance of learning about and caring about how best to sustain these unique landscapes, landforms, and living environments.

And with respect to the past…some of my family’s stories, like for so many people here on the Cape and in this country, include migration and journeys from one homeland to another. At least as far back as my “great grands” (fathers, mothers), I heard stories of emigrants from Cape Verde to America, landing in New Bedford and making their way to the Cape. Sustained by work, and nurtured by a caring community, my forebears passed on stories and values of struggle, connection, community, and accomplishment.

And that is another connection for me with the mission and values embodied in the work of Cape & Islands United Way. Recognition that struggles and challenges happen to us all, and yet those struggles do not define us. Awareness that we are each other’s community, and can be part of the support that sustains us as we move forward in our respective life journeys.

What would you say to others who are considering volunteering opportunities with the Cape and Islands United Way?

I hope that I’ve already said this in my earlier responses, but I will say it again here: don’t hesitate, jump in!

This organization has so many different ways that you can make a contribution, be a supporter, help to make something happen, and best of all make a difference in someone’s life. I can’t think of a reason better than that.

And everyone I’ve met through my volunteering has been inspirational for me in some way – knowledgeable, interested, welcoming, thoughtful, and committed to helping others. These are all qualities and values that attracted me in the first place, and they have sustained my interest in and continued involvement with Cape & Islands United Way.


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