I retired in 2000 after working more than 40 hours per week as an account executive overseeing more than 100 employees. I never thought I would work that many hours again until I became a volunteer for a nonprofit organization.
It started in 2010 when my wife and I started volunteering for the Highland Ridge Community Development Corp. As community volunteers, we joined its neighbors and economy committee because it seemed an appropriate fit for us. We live in the city, and as landlords and neighbors, we were interested in seeing improvements in our city and our neighborhood. We felt our combined 50-plus years of corporate management experience would be helpful to this small organization.
A few months later we were asked to be on the board of directors. We worked with our board members to start a crime watch, fought to regain our nonprofit status, maintain our planters and trash cans, organize Washington’s first film festival, conduct garden workshops for kids utilizing our community garden, hold fundraisers, apply for grants, and the list goes on.
Last year, I became the organization’s president and CEO. By the time I realized what I signed up for, my weekly schedule morphed into a seven-days-a-week challenge. It seems like I’ve spent more of my time volunteering than I did when I worked a full-time job.
My parents, Fred and Delcina Fleet, were the ultimate volunteers. They committed their lives to helping Washington become a better place, not only for the Highland Ridge area but also for the entire city. Their legacy, the Highland Erie Project, led to the formulation of the Highland Ridge Community Development Corp. Our community, our city, our nonprofit organization needs its volunteers. We can’t survive without them.
Despite financial restraints, the Highland Ridge Community Development Corp. has forged ahead to create and maintain a community park in our area. We have the city’s largest community garden open to everyone and with our new �Mending Fences� program, we will continue to fight blight, a mission that is at the core of our existence. Our commitment is to reach out to neighborhoods beyond the Highland Ridge community to support the mayor and city council’s �Fight Blight� movement throughout the entire city of Washington.
Why do I do it? Especially for nothing? It’s not for nothing. Like my parents, I want to make a difference. I want to foster creative partnerships to rebuild Washington together.
It takes hard work, but for me volunteering is where it begins.
Fred Fleet, II
Fleet is the president of the Highland Ridge Community Development Corp.