Spotlight on Service is a regular series highlighting those who spend their time giving back. I am drawn to people who operate in the spirit of service and think it’s important to take the time to acknowledge those who are doing wonderful things for our communities. There are so many positive things taking place in our world that often get overlooked. If you are interested in supporting great causes, or just want to read an inspiring story to make you smile, keep reading!
Victoria Smith is the Executive Director of March of Dimes in the Coastal Empire Region of Georgia. She and I met through our local BNI ( Business Networking International) chapter and were having lunch out on Tybee Island when I asked if I could feature her story on my blog. I brought my 6-year-old son, Hunter, with me and he immediately warmed to her. By the time lunch was over, he was sitting next to her, playing games on her phone, chatting her up, and was completely enthralled with her.
We took a little stroll down to the beach and- she and I in our sundresses- went into the water up to our ankles so my son could take a little dip. Hunter met a friend and began following him deeper and deeper into the waves. Nervously, I started to call him back towards shore. I love the beach but am not comfortable in the murky ocean waters. She just looked at me, shrugged, and said, “He can play! If anything happens, I’ll jump in there after him!” And I knew she was serious. She wouldn’t hesitate to jump into action if needed- head first- sundress and all.
I immediately relaxed and we stayed there until a piece of driftwood brushed my ankle and I was positive it was a bull shark- Time to go! But in all seriousness, in the couple of months I have known Victoria, I have been able to see first hand that she is fearless, decisive, driven, and one of the warmest, kindest people I have ever known. And her story of service deserves to be told.
It Starts With Mom
Some people are just designed for giving back. Victoria says she was raised on it. She grew up learning her parent’s values and was encouraged to help people. Even as a child, her mom took her through the neighborhood, collecting dimes for the March of Dimes. And though she has supported many causes over the years, March of Dimes has always been at the core of her heart, and the focus of her energy.
The charitable foundation has been around since the 1930s and has used its mission to support healthy moms and strong babies. The most recent focus is “It Starts with Mom”, highlighting the importance of maternal healthcare and setting moms up for success.
Victoria started volunteering for March of Dimes in Washington DC to support a friend and mentor who had delivered a premature baby. Her full time job was as an event planner, and she and 4 others were able to skillfully build the Signature Chef’s Auction. It proved to become a successful event for March of Dimes and raised a lot of funding to support their mission. Victoria also joined the board and got an inside look at the direction the foundation was going. She too has a son who, now 11 and thriving, was also born prematurely. Pre-term babies are too common in the US. and March of Dimes continues its work to bring those numbers down.
Victoria shared some staggering maternal health statistics in the United States; including that 2 women die from pregnancy every day, 1 in 10 babies is born pre-term, and 5 million women live in maternity-care-deserts- counties with no obstetrical care available. The rate is worse for women of color, and the likelihood that a woman would face these stats can be determined by her zipcode. March of Dimes is working to change those statistics.
When Victoria moved to the Savannah Ga area 5 years ago, she found the March of Dimes of Coastal Georgia and continued to volunteer. She worked as Executive Director of Savannah’s Waterfront- a non profit organization dedicated to promoting and preserving the historic waterfront area and supporting the hospitality industry connected to it. She used her event planning expertise to promote events that brought in public interest from tourists and supported both the hospitality industry, and charitable organizations like March of Dimes to spread awareness, and make it easier for the public to give back and invest in their community.
The March of Dimes for Victoria represents the evolution of life and it is so important to support the causes connected to healthy moms and babies. She eventually transitioned into the role of Executive Director of March of Dimes Georgia.
She gives of herself, and she gives financially. During the Covid Quarantine, she saw the hit our hospitality industry took. Her solution was to buy gift cards from local businesses, and anybody who donated gets put into a drawing for a giftcard to use at a local establishment. She used her Soles in Motion Walk Team to incentivize folks and help the local market at the same time as helping families in need.
She says, “When you start to see the impact of what a charity does and the impact of who it helps, You want to spread awareness as much as possible to keep supporting it.” Now she is on the other side and visiting hospitals and NICU support center at HCA Memorial Hospital on a regular basis, and working on directing those funds to help support mothers and babies. In the near future, March of Dimes will expand their support services to St Joseph’s Candler Hospital in Savannah as well.
“Moms are always taking care of our families, our friends, and our kids and we put ourselves last. We need to be healthy as women so we can have healthy babies. I love where we are going with our mission and the pivot during the last couple of years. Even more so during covid because Moms are alone in the delivery rooms. It’s heart-wrenching to see what moms go through.”
Support for “It Starts With Mom” helps provide advocacy, education and research to level the playing field and builds a brighter future to make sure moms and babies are healthy and there is a brighter future for all of us. For more information, you can check out this link and consider supporting March of Dimes.