Jessica Meadows, communications and marketing director for North Central Health Care, was always involved in sports activities growing up in Ringle, Wis, whether it was on a slab of concrete by the barn or in a gym. Volunteering as a coach was a natural evolution for Meadows as she grew older.
J“I’ve always been passionate about basketball and pretty much any sport, and it taught me to do my very best,” said Meadows, who lives in Wausau. “There are a lot of lessons in sports that carry over and play out in everyday life with work, relationships and more. It’s definitely a passion of mine.”
JMeadows encourages others considering volunteering to look at things in their lives that strike a chord with them. She played basketball several times a day growing up, playing for a Division I school in college and loved the connections it brought into her life.
J“[Through sports,] I was fortunate to have some great mentors and coaches who taught me lifelong skills,” she said. “It led me in a good direction both personally and professionally.”
JToday, she teaches skills and sportsmanship to children participating in soccer, the sport her own children, 10-year-old daughter Ember and seven-year-old son Halston participate in.
JIn addition to coaching indoor and outdoor soccer for second graders and fourth graders year-round, Meadows helps with the basketball booster club at D.C. Everest Area School District. She is passionate about raising funds to make participation in sports possible for students whose parents may not be able to afford it.
That focus on helping others who might be struggling also drives Meadows’ volunteerism with Habitat for Humanity of Wausau, Inc. For the past five or six years, she has led the collection of “junk” Christmas lights at her employer; the lights are then recycled and funds used by Habitat for Humanity to purchase supplies for their home builds. This past year, the drive Meadows led collected 452 pounds of junk holiday lights, and the funds raised from recycling them paid for all the 2’ X 4 and 2’ X 6’ wood required to construct an entire Habitat for Humanity’s home’s walls.
“To think that we did that just by collecting lights is amazing,” Meadows said. “All I did was use my marketing skills and be creative in promoting the cause. I now have people asking me in October, ‘Are you doing the light drive this year so we can donate?’ The word is out there now and it’s expected.”
Meadows’ involvement with Habitat for Humanity doesn’t end there. She also has participated in several home builds, first bringing her children along to help when they were three and five years old. “Even though they were small, it was all hands on deck and we helped with planting flowers, bushes and shrubs and putting hay on top of grass seed,” she said. “They thought it was great. Now, every time we drive by that home, [it’s a reminder] that we helped to build that.”
Meadows said the common denominator between sports and something like Habitat for Humanity is that both require simply kickstarting something in a person’s life to push them in a positive direction. That’s also been an impetus behind her involvement in the United Way of Marathon County. After she began working at North Central Health Care, she became more aware of how the United Way connects people with basic care/daily living needs such as clothing, food, shelter and support including mental health and addiction services.
She joined her workplace’s campaign committee and will participate in her eighth with the United Way’s annual campaign this fall. In addition, she serves on the United Way of Marathon County’s marketing committee.
“I just believe that if I can use my skills in marketing, graphic design and communications to make the [drive] more fun and get employees more involved in helping our community, that’s a real connection,” she said. She said she loves that North Central Health Care educates employees about the United Way year-round — with a month off in January — so it can maintain the momentum and “always keep it in front of people and not only when someone needs an immediate donation,” she said. “It’s a great way to educate all that United Way does and how employees can help others.”
Meadows also donates of her marketing know-how and her time to volunteer at events with the AOD Partnership in Marathon County.
“Most of the time, I’m using my skill-sets to help with things they need for marketing or graphic design that otherwise might be funds that would come out of their pocket otherwise,” she said.
An appreciation for nature also comes into play with her annual involvement in the Ghidorzi Clean & Green, Wausau’s annual community-wide cleanup to free the landscape of litter and debris. Meadows strives to get as many employees in her workplace involved as well as people in her personal circle as “it’s an easy way to give back,” she said.
In her role at North Central Health Care, she is involved in many fundraisers through its foundation and other activities including the Suicide Prevention Walks the organization sponsors. “I have no requirement to go, but I often end up going and supporting the people in our community who have mental health challenges or have lost loved ones to suicide,” she said. “I think that when you can see the impact something like that makes, your mere presence says a lot. I’ve had friends and family attend and say, ‘Wow, this really makes a difference.’ ”
Meadows says she understands some people’s apprehension about committing to volunteer activities. She suggests finding a passion area and doing something small to start. “After you do it, [you’ll discover] the reward is so much greater than the hour you would have spent on the couch,” she said.
While Meadows admits to juggling both a personal and a professional calendar for making her life run smoothly, she doesn’t count the hours she invests because it’s “what we want to do,” she said. With many of her activities, her husband, Jody, and her children are almost always with her.
“When I was a kid, I had a coach or other people in sports that gave me a boost in setting me off in the right direction,” she said. “If I can give someone else a leg up to move in a good direction in their life, that’s what I’m looking for.”