Volunteer Appreciation: Beth Leven

In honor of Volunteer Appreciation Week, we put together a special Q&A between an experienced Coordinator and a new Coordinator. Beth Leven, Austin Walk Coordinator, has been involved in the PKD Foundation’s volunteer leadership for the past 15 years in both the Boston and Austin Chapters. In this week’s blog, she answers questions from Parker Burns, Salt Lake City Walk Coordinator, who is helping jumpstart a brand new Walk for PKD in his Chapter:

Parker Burns: How did you get started with volunteering for the PKD Foundation?

Beth Leven: I found out about the PKD Foundation in Massachusetts and attended a seminar in 2002, back when I was on dialysis. My mom volunteered with the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) in the 70’s and that instilled volunteerism in me. After my transplant in 2005, I wanted to get more involved and give back in some way, so I offered to help with the Walk for PKD. The following year, I was “elected” Walk Coordinator. I have now led 10 Walks between Boston and Austin.

PB: What is your favorite thing about volunteering?

BL: Giving my time and energy to a cause I am so passionate about and expecting nothing in return but feeling rewarded with the outcome.

PB: What is your favorite memory from a Walk?

BL: The first year I volunteered in Boston, I changed how we did things a bit and it was a huge success. We doubled our fundraising from the year before. I love Walk day! It is when all your hard work pays off. It is always great when you see so many PKD families together who inspire each other. I also love it when people meet and have a yearly reunion, sharing their tales of the past year. As an aside, the worst memory of a Walk was the year I didn’t walk with my team. I’d had knee surgery and walking would have been too much. That year I felt like I missed the most important part of the event – sharing the whole experience with the other walkers. It emphasized that for me, it’s all about the Walk itself.

PB: Has the Walk changed over the years, and if so, how?

BL: I don’t think it has changed that much, but it has grown tremendously since I first started in 2006. The Foundation is more organized with better support for the Walks and Coordinators.

PB: What would you say is the most important aspect of the Walk for a new Coordinator to focus on?

BL: Walker participation and fundraising. In the years that I ran the Walk in Boston and now in Austin, we have always reached out to captains and registrants with a letter of welcome. I think it gives them a little boost and incentive. It introduces them to the local people and lets them know they can reach out with questions.

PB: If you could offer advice to yourself, back when you first started volunteering, what would it be?

BL: Set priorities and be organized. Keep records and spread sheets of who you talked to and when. Make lists and more lists. Delegate so you don’t have to do it all yourself. If your Walk is small and you don’t have much help, do only what you can, without expecting too much of yourself. Have fun working for a great cause, and when it’s run its course (for you), don’t be afraid to pass the baton to the next volunteer. All the organizing you did will make for an easy transition.