A Continuing Legacy of Community Service
By Amy Heisler, VLI Class 30
When asked to name the most rewarding benefit of Valley Leadership’s Leadership Institute (VLI) program, many graduates say: “being a part of a larger family with a shared goal of community service.”
For some, VLI truly is a family affair. That includes three generations of Homeward Bound’s Executive Director Barbara Ralston’s family. The 1996 Woman of the Year and VLI Class 5 graduate ignited a passion for community involvement in her daughter Lori Maxwell (VLI Class 35) and grandson Nick Maxwell (Valley Leadership Youth – VLY 2015).
“I was first inspired to apply for VLI at the Man & Woman of the Year luncheon recognizing my mother,” said Lori. However, she chose not to apply at the time because of family and career obligations. Fast forward a few years and another luncheon later, and it was time. “The excitement of being around so many people who really cared about making our community a better place was infectious. I applied as soon as I got home.”
Dinnertime conversation soon turned to VLI and young Nick listened in and volunteered alongside Lori at VLI events. When he searched for internship and community service opportunities, he didn’t look very far. He inquired about an internship at the Valley Leadership office and found the VLY program.
“Teenagers think they need to wait before they can make a difference. We were taking action now,” said Nick. “I learned so much about leadership. Here we were, young people who wanted to do big things and we were meeting with people who could help us do them.”
Barbara, Lori and Nick agree that their shared experiences has brought them closer together as a family.
“It’s such a joy to hear ‘I sit on this board with your daughter,’ or ‘I met your grandson’,” Barbara said.
“My grandmother often knew the people I was working with at the VL office and through VLY. That gave us something in common to talk about,” said Nick, a high school senior. “We were having conversations as peers, not as a grandmother and grandson.”
Lori added: “Valley Leadership has helped build our family relationship as much as we’ve helped the community. I also think of what we are doing today as making Phoenix an even better place for Nick and his family, when that time comes.”
Nick is excited to carry on the family tradition. “I want to go through VLI like they went through, it’s a part of the family. I’ll get to do the same thing my mom and grandma did – be a part of bringing the community together.”
“It gives me a great sense of pride to see the desire to serve continue on,” said Barbara. “We need to make sure the program is here for the next generations.”