By Shanté Haymore-Kearney
I was honored to be invited to serve on the Repair The World (Repair) Delegation. As the manager of Community Partnerships for the Miami chapter of Common Threads, a national non-profit, I interacted with Repair – Miami as the organization explored partnership opportunities for their incoming fellows. I attended the Service Unites Conference as a member of the Repair Delegation because of the opportunity to convene in the historic city of Atlanta with people from all over the country who are actively engaged and committed to service and volunteerism to create positive change in their community and the world. As a chosen member of the 40+ person team, I was joined by people from different parts of the country and was one of the few non-Jewish, and only African-American delegate, I brought that perspective with me to all the activities and conversations and I fully embraced the opportunity to learn about the rich Jewish culture and religion.
Although I have worked in the non-profit sector for the past eight years, I had never participated in a conference with the scope or size as Service Unites. Being with over 2,200 people who were passionate about various causes was a powerful reminder that I am not alone, and I felt a sense of community and connection amongst strangers. The lessons that were reinforced to me over the three-day conference were:
- The importance of diversity.
- Passion as a catalyst for change.
The Opening Plenary was held in the historic Fox Theater was my top highlight of the week and did an excellent job of setting energy and tone for the days to come. The themes discussed were water, youth, and women. The presenters represented a diverse range of colors, religions, ages, ethnic backgrounds, economic status, and impact capacity. Although the content was varied, the passion that each of the speakers and panelists brought was palpable, giving me goosebumps and at times moving me to tears. Through all these differences, the commonality was that each person was driven and inspired to create change through the means, resources, and talents they had available to them – they all lived passion and purpose driven lives. They were each a powerful example of living and serving others and inspiring people to join them in being part of that change. My favorite presentation was the spoken word poem that was performed by Storytelling Activist Amal Kassir. She used her Muslim-American culture and religion as a backdrop to express her experience of inequities as of late in this country through recent policies and procedures that have been put into place and create separation and disconnection among her people in this country.
The display of passion and emotion was beautifully demonstrated many times in the heartfelt and emotional addresses that Chairman of the Points of Light Board, Neil Bush, shared during the Opening Plenary and the Closing Ceremony. He shared openly and vulnerably about his parents, Former First Lady Barbara Bush and Former President George W. H. Bush, and the lessons that he learned from them about being in service to support others in the best and worst of times. He gave a teary-eyed reflection about the importance of being accountable to each other and ourselves for the progress and state of the world and communities that we live in. I was fortunate to meet Neil in the hallway in between sessions and I thanked him for being open, vulnerable, and authentic with his words and emotions. I told him that it is my personal belief that when we each show up authentically and allow ourselves to be seen, we become a mirror for others to see themselves too. It humanizes us. It allows compassion to flow freely. It creates connection, and as my mentor, Founder of the Connection Coalition, Terri Cooper Space says, “Connection is the cure.” I believe that what we need more of is to give each other permission to shine our lights and illuminate the world in a significant and much needed way.
Throughout the weekend, Neil presented two people, actor Jesse Williams and NBA player Dwight Howard, with the Point of Light honor. Over 6,000 of these awards have been presented over the years. While it was special to see this honor given to them for their important work and dedication, what really stood out to me was that everyone in the room is truly a point of light, and in those three days we all came together to grow, share, learn, and inspire each other to continue to shine through service and volunteerism. We did this by celebrating and embracing our diversity, living with passion for the causes and issues that we care about and affect us, and believing that a small difference is actually a big difference.
I felt that the Service Unites Conference gave me permission and access to resources to shine my light and be bright!
Shanté Haymore-Kearney is a champion for community empowerment, health, and wellness. Shante’ has a diverse professional work portfolio which includes over seven years as a marketing and community relations strategist within various business sectors including, national non-profits, international sports organizations, and corporate retailers.
Her dedication to creating positive change and personal empowerment is evident through her personal endeavors as well. She has been a certified yoga teacher since 2011. She founded a wellness company, Inner Inspiration, that teaches “Tools for Mindful Living.” She has guided hundreds of people to connect with their inner peace and personal power through yoga, meditation, vision boards, prayer, and mindfulness in classes, workshops, retreats, and online content. Shanté has been a member of the service teams of Miami-based nonprofits Unity on the Bay, Connection Coalition (fka Yoga Gangsters), and Gratitude Training Leadership Program.
Haymore-Kearney received her degree in Business Administration from Florida A&M University and her Masters of Sports Administration from Northwestern University. One of her proudest accomplishments was as an NCAA Division I Volleyball student-athlete when she was named Conference Player of the Year in 2000 and 2001. Shante’ balances her work life, yoga, and meditation teaching, along with being a mom to a 2-year-old and a wife. She currently resides in her hometown of Miami, FL but is planning to relocate to Atlanta, GA to start a new chapter for her and her family.