One of the hidden benefits of working with the United Way — beyond the intrinsic feeling of satisfaction of making a difference in the community — is something Tyler Harding would’ve never first imagined.
Harding, a 21-year-old senior majoring in business marketing, arrived in Reno last fall after attending the University of San Diego for his first two years of college.
New to Reno, Harding had earned an internship with the United Way of Northern Nevada as a community executive.
“The good thing about it,” recalled Harding recently, “was that since it was my first fall here, I was kind of thrown into not only a new job, but a new city I didn’t really know.”
Harding smiled, recollecting more than a few wrong turns he made as he traveled from businesses and organizations throughout the area. Once he found them, he helped them with the details of developing their own United Way charitable giving campaigns.
“I knew Virginia Street and McCarran, but I had to find everything else in our area,” Harding said. “That was pretty helpful.”
A year later, Harding is still involved with United Way.
He has moved on from serving as a community executive to become part of the United Way’s “Can Do” team. Replacing him as the community executive is another University student, Britta Mahoney. Although Harding’s duties have shifted, the emphasis and his involvement have remained the same. Harding still interacts with many different local entities, reinforcing the message that United Way has a profound impact on northern Nevada.
“The United Way serves the community in a very positive way,” said Harding, who played football for USD for two seasons before transferring to Nevada, where he is currently a member of the University’s lacrosse team. “It’s a small thing to give, but the reward that you are giving to the people — especially in this time, where our economy is right now — can really go a long ways in helping people who need it.
“Resources are stretched so thin right now, even a little bit, even $5, can make a huge difference for people who need the help.”
Harding said his involvement with United Way has also shown him many of the benefits that many people may not realize. Time and again, as he worked with companies to establish their own giving campaigns, Harding said he was amazed at the goodwill it created within the company’s culture.
“It not only helps the community, it brings some unity within the company,” he said, noting that he was impressed by the way employees of companies such as Wells Fargo and hotel-casinos such as John Ascuaga’s Nugget embraced their giving campaigns.
“It was exciting to see the people of Wells Fargo get behind their effort,” he said. “John Ascuaga’s Nugget really got into it. They had a big award ceremony for the people who went above and beyond — not just financially, but who were really supportive and just made themselves a big part of it.
“It’s really cool to see things like that happen. Even if it’s tough for some people, they still find ways to get involved.”
Harding added that United Way’s strength is its utility and versatility in helping a number of non-profits throughout northern Nevada.
“United Way is a good umbrella,” he said. “It helps give attention to non-profits that sometimes don’t always get a lot of attention … non-profits that are really worthy causes. Some people may not know about them, so United Way provides that outlet to them.”
In addition to his studies and work with United Way, Harding has found the perfect athletic outlet with the University’s lacrosse team.
“I’m doing the treasury and marketing for lacrosse,” said Harding, whose hometown is the small North San Diego County community of Valley Center, Calif. “It’s been pretty hectic, but it’s been fun. United Way has even helped me with that — I’ve been able to make a lot of contacts, and since lacrosse is a club sport, I’ve contacted about 180 businesses and asked them to come on board with UNR lacrosse.”
And to think that it all started with a crash-course in how to find businesses and organizations as a newcomer to Reno.
For Harding, all roads in Reno have led to an important realization about the University and its community:
“I’ve seen so many people wanting to get involved here, which United Way really helps bolster. I’ve seen that a lot here in Reno, more so here than even in San Diego. In San Diego there are more people, but here there are more people doing more hands-on stuff. It’s exciting to be a part of.”
The University of Nevada, Reno’s Charitable Giving Campaign for 2008 runs from Oct. 8-24.