By Executive Director, Jane Singleton
For most of my life, I volunteered with kids: as a camp counselor, youth group leader, coach. Impacting the lives of young people has always mattered to me as there were so many adult influences throughout my childhood. Working in corporate America in Charlotte for 18 years provided a wide variety of volunteer experiences from which I was fortunate to gain many gifts. In 2013, I moved into my toughest corporate role from a human interest capacity. So with the philosophy of you get when you give, I turned that challenge into a new volunteer role with The First Tee of (Greater) Charlotte. Golf had recently become my greatest sport passion so as a new, late in life player, I loved the idea of getting young people involved. What I found was so much more…
The First Tee’s goal is to provide character education and life skills lessons to help young people be successful in school and in life. Integrity, sportsmanship, honesty, respect are some of the core values taught to young people to empower them in dealing with everyday life. In the past several years, with the technological advances and changing family structures, there has been a shift in our country for children today. Bullying is so easy since you can do it behind a screen and never actually face the person. The immediate gratification of the internet – of which I am keenly dependent – is creating generations without the sense of investment in finding / working for what you need. But at The First Tee, I found a program instilling the value of values; such as responsibility, perseverance and judgment! At The First Tee, I personally found hope for our community.
As a volunteer, it was a challenge to leave work in the early afternoon to spend time away from the office. My company supported it, of course; but it was a battle leaving the work to get there on time. I found myself grumbling on the drive, “I don’t have time to do this. My job requires so much. Ugh – this is a terrible day.” After an hour and a half of working with fantastic people from throughout the greater Charlotte community, all united around The First Tee mission, core values, and healthy habits; empowering young people, and bringing golf to any child that wants to learn it: I was hooked. An hour and a half later, I was driving home beaming and thinking, “That was the BEST day ever! What a great way to spend time with amazing people I might never have met. Influencing and empowering kids is the most valuable contribution I can make…”
It literally changed my life. Last fall, the Executive Director Ike Grainger, announced he was retiring from the role. I met with him about the reality of the position. I talked with former board members about the organization’s potential and leadership opportunities. And I soul searched. It was absolutely the right fit, the right opportunity and the right time to pursue Executive Director of The First Tee of (Greater) Charlotte. I am honored by the privilege of being selected to lead such an important mission for our community, and to partner with such a talented, committed staff and volunteers in our mission.
To be clear, it is still work; and the hardest job I have ever had in many ways! But the reward is magnanimous. Seeing smiling faces, kids running around the greens, proud parents looking on and supporting the growth of their children and their community; it is a joy each and every day… because it matters so much to so many. I am blessed!