Thankful for everything: United Way team member begins new career journey

Published 12:10 am Sunday, June 30, 2024

SALISBURY — What started as an internship turned into a full-time position, and after being a part of the Rowan County United Way team for six years, Tara Allen is beginning a new chapter in her career journey.

Her last official day at the United Way was Friday, something she noted was bittersweet, and she will begin her new position July 8 at Oechsli Institute in Greensboro.

The institute is a marketing agency that targets financial advisors, and she will be one of the content specialists assisting different financial advisors with their social media and anything else she can help with. This will be a new experience for her, but one she said she is excited to learn about.

“I’m of course sad to be leaving here, but excited for this new chapter where I’m hopefully going to be growing in my skills in marketing,” Allen said.

Originally from Kannapolis, she attended A.L. Brown High School and it was during that time she felt pretty confident that Catawba College was where she wanted to attend.

“I always grew up knowing that was a very good school,” she said, and commuted back and forth from Kannapolis to Catawba for classes.

She had a great college experience, she said, and through it was introduced to the Salisbury community and began to get involved and discover what Salisbury and the county had to offer.

While a student and business administration major, Allen said she was still searching for what she wanted to do and decided to pay a visit to the career guidance department where she was matched with United Way who was needing help with their social media and some administrative responsibilities.

Her internship with the organization began in January 2018, and it wasn’t long before she became a temporary employee, being hired in that role in May of the same year. By October, she was hired to come on board as a permanent employee by Executive Director Jenny Lee as an administrative and brand support assistant.

“She (Lee) quickly saw some of the talents that I had that I had not been able to actually really dive into, and so she invested in me and she hired me,” Allen said.

She grew into her role, and in addition to doing social media and administrative things such as answering phone calls, she said she began writing press releases, something she hadn’t done previously.

“I got to expand upon my writing skills and I realized how much I liked it. I was like, this is great. I’m really getting to learn all these new things,” she said.

Another responsibility she took on was learning email marketing and by 2022, Allen said she was promoted to her most recent position of marketing and communications manager.

“Time really flew,” she said, “but I’ve been blessed that I was fortunate enough right out of college to find something that helped me to see what I loved to do.”

Throughout her years at United Way, she has learned many lessons and received lots of encouragement and support from her family, friends and the community, she said.

Her husband, Brandon Allen, has been her biggest supporter, and other cheerleaders have been her mom, Cynthia Bailey, and sisters, Jennifer Joyner and Mikayla Bailey.

“Ever since I started here, they’ve been so happy for me, so supportive of everything that I do and I couldn’t do what I do without them,” Allen shared.

The lessons and skills she gained during this time is something she is grateful for and to those who shared them with her.

“I got to really spread my wings,” she said, in social media and email marketing but also in graphic design, which she added is a big one that helped her to flourish in her artistic abilities that she didn’t delve into until she started working there.

But, beyond the specific jobs she learned or advanced in, Allen said most of all she gained, “the skills and just being a better community member. I truly realized what it means to be a part of a community.”

And she credits her fellow staff members for teaching her this invaluable lesson.

They have “really taught me what it means to be a servant leader. I owe so much to them,” she said, speaking of friends and coworkers Jenny Lee, Melissa Robbins, Audrey Eudy, Marc Keith and Donna Honeycutt. 

Allen added her thanks to board members, donors and volunteers who, along with the staff, have “really shown me what it means to give back and I’ve been truly inspired by all of it, not just the skills I’ve gained but the life lessons I’ve learned.”

Lee shared of getting to know Allen while at United Way.

“Since 2018, I have worked alongside Tara and had the honor to watch her grow into the strong, young professional she is today. Tara’s hunger to learn and caring disposition contributed to the development of United Way’s incredible team of leaders. For years now, Tara’s work, from her graphic designs posted all over Rowan County to her profound craft of writing, has served as a showcase for our mission and a powerful way of sharing the United Way story. Because of Tara’s contributions, United Way continues to thrive, serving some of our most vulnerable neighbors in crisis. Her imprint will surely live on in our special community.”  

During her years at Rowan County United Way, Allen was involved in many different community events and while it was hard to settle on any one in particular that she enjoyed more than another, she did mention several that came to mind that she was proud to be a part of.

All of the projects that United Way participates in, she said, they are very intentional about. 

“We always do it with the intent to make our community better in the long term, to really help us grow, everyone to be sustainable and make us stronger.” 

One project she was proud to be involved with was the Community Impact Model, which they were transitioning into when she came. “That was a big one,” she said. 

Another was the relief fund developed during COVID. “We really got to be hands on and we were delivering masks to people. We really got to see the best in everyone I feel like during that time,” Allen said.

And she told how she loves the Day of Caring that occurs in the community every year and how enjoyable it is to see this happen.

To those she has met along the way, Allen wanted to tell them she is “beyond grateful for all the things they have done for United Way,” but as for her specifically, how the “support from our community members not just professionally but having their friendship has meant so much to me. The kindness I’ve received from everyone has been immeasurable. I couldn’t thank them more for all the experience that I’ve gotten from them.”

Plus she shared how much she has appreciated being embraced by everyone even though she didn’t grow up in this county, but, she said, “everyone has just made me feel right at home.”

And her friends and the community shared that sentiment of gratitude as they came to wish her well at a send off her colleagues hosted for her.

Allen said it was totally unexpected, “but the staff, they were phenomenal. They gave me so many special gifts.” 

A memory book, made by Keith, was available for visitors to share thoughts, and photos of years passed were hanging up around the office, thus providing her with a “great trip down memory lane,” she said. 

Board members, volunteers, those from the nonprofit community and more came by.

“I felt very loved on that day. I loved it. That was great. I had a really good time that day,” she said.

And even though her new job is in Greensboro, she said with a big smile she wouldn’t be gone forever, but people would still see her around.

“I’m definitely still going to be around and I am just so grateful for everyone’s support throughout this transition,” she said. “Everyone’s been so supportive and kind to me. I just want to thank them for everything.”