What Matters Most – Community Edition with Sarah Warchola

Sarah Warchola, community relationship manager at First United in Sabraton joins us again to discuss her background, the community, involvement, how to get involved, and what it means to her to be community oriented.


Announcer: Welcome to the “What Matters Most” podcast, presented by First United Bank & Trust. That’s my bank. Visit us today at mybank.com.

Eric: Hello, and welcome to a bonus episode of “What Matters Most” podcast, all about finances, community savings, and security for you, your family, and your business. This community version of our podcast is brought to you by the helpful folks at my bank, First United Bank & Trust. I’m your host, Eric Nutter, and in today’s bonus episode, “What Matters Most” is community. So, I’m here again with Sarah Warchola, Community Relationship Manager at the Saberton office of First United. Thanks again for joining me.

Sarah: Thanks for having me back.

Eric: So, let’s talk a little bit about community. One of the things at First United that we are very passionate about are our communities. And I know that many of our folks internally are involved in so many things in the community. So, let’s go way back.

Sarah: Ooh [inaudible 00:01:02]

Eric: Where did you grow up?

Sarah: Okay. We’ll go back to the beginning here…

Eric: Go back to the beginning.

Sarah: …get back to the beginning of my story. I am actually a townie.

Eric: Okay.

Sarah: So, I was born and raised in Morgantown. For those of you that don’t know what townie means, but, yeah. I’m a Morgantown local, born and raised here with the exception of my four years in college, moved right back home. So, Mountaineer always.

Eric: All right.

Sarah: Yeah.

Eric: All right. So, what do you love about the community here in Morgantown, West Virginia?

Sarah: Well, I would say my love, I mean, obviously this is my home, always will be my home, my family’s here, every great memory from my childhood and my friendships. This is the scene, you know. So I will always have that tie to this community. But on a larger scale, I just have a strong passion for West Virginia as a whole. I love this state, I love everything about it, and yes, I know we have some strides to make in certain areas, but I’m so passionate about this state in particular, that I just love being here.

Eric: Great.

Sarah: Yeah.

Eric: So, in the community, what kinds of things are you involved in that kind of bring out that passion? What are you doing out there?

Sarah: Yeah. So, over the years, I mean, in high school I was involved in a lot of different volunteer organizations and did a lot of different projects. And throughout the course of my life, I would say I’m, you know, kind of in a whole bunch of different things for singular projects, but on a little bit more of a regular basis, I currently serve on the board for Preston Memorial Hospital Foundation which is part of the Mon Health System. And I also am very proud to be a part of the United way of Mon and Preston counties. So, I sit on the board and the executive committee and I am the current Chair of the Citizens Review Committee, which is the committee that allocates the money that is raised during campaign.

Eric: That’s awesome.

Sarah: So, the money that’s raised, we get to put it right back out into the community through this committee process. So, it’s really hands-on and it’s a firsthand glimpse of what’s going on with our nonprofits in the community. It’s really amazing.

Eric: That’s great.

Sarah: Yeah.

Eric: What are some of the projects that you’re working on right now?

Sarah: With the Preston Memorial Hospital Foundation, we have a couple of different events throughout the year that are fundraisers for the hospital. We have a gala every year. My favorite is Night at the Races. So, it’s a kind of a mock horse race and you get to bet and you get to dress up. It’s really fun. So, it’s a great fundraiser for us. So, we primarily plan a couple of different fundraisers throughout the year that help support the hospital. And then with United Way, you know, it’s interesting just because the community is always changing, the donors are always changing, our culture is always changing. So, it’s just interesting to be involved and seeing how our nonprofits are shifting too, and just some of the different changes in our world and how it impacts our, you know, how our nonprofits and our communities are able to operate. So…

Eric: Sure. Have you been able to see some of the change in the community based on the work you’re involved in or the projects that you’ve been associated with?

Sarah: Oh, yeah. I mean, it’s pretty astounding. It’s actually really exciting. So, with my involvement with Preston Memorial. So, that’s a really feasible thing to see. Sometimes if we raise $80,000 and it’s for a piece of new equipment that allows us to now do these services at the hospital. I mean, that’s opening up so many doors in Preston County to be able to offer those services. So, that’s really exciting to see some of that. And then three nine-way. I mean, we being part of the committee that hands out the money to these programs that have applied, I mean, you see immediately, I mean, just as a, for instance, the backpack programs, all of the immediate services that are provided back into this community, the food pantries, everything that is able to continue thriving for this community because of their partnership. I mean, it’s just really exciting to be able to see firsthand all the programming that’s happening and serving this community.

Eric: Right.

Sarah: Yeah.

Eric: So, what does being involved mean to you personally?

Sarah: Well, I mean, it’s a lot more than just, you know, a calendar, appointment and reminder. You know what I mean? I’ve always been a big believer that be the change you wish to see in this world. You know, especially growing up in West Virginia, we’re very community-based, very community-oriented. You know, we take care of our neighbors. You know, we’re in this together, and that’s kinda the sense in this community and the state. So, for me, it’s really about, if you wanna see something change, get out there and help fix it.

Eric: Yeah.

Sarah: You know, be part of the solution. So, for me, that’s what it is, being part of the solution, putting good back out into the world. Even if you’re able just by one act to make, you know, one person’s day a little bit better, and then maybe they pay it forward, that has a ripple effect. And we’re all a part of that. So, the more that we can get out there and put good into the world, the better. Yeah.

Eric: I love that.

Sarah: Yeah.

Eric: I love that idea. Good builds on good, and it just kinda keeps the ball rolling.

Sarah: It does. I mean, even if it’s a matter of you’re going to the Starbucks drivethru, buy coffee for the stranger behind you in line, it’s gonna make their day. Maybe they’ll do something kind for somebody else and it just continues.

Eric: I love it.

Sarah: It’s powerful.

Eric: I love it. So, let’s talk about that. How can others get involved? So, maybe they do things personally like that, but what are ways that people can get involved in some of these organizations that are doing such good in the community?

Sarah: Oh, absolutely. Well, I mean, first and foremost, I would kind of encourage you if you’re just getting started in, you know, community engagement, I would say find what your passion is. What speaks to your heart? What are you really passionate about? Whether it’s animals, the elderly, the opioid crisis, whatever really speaks to you, and that you’re gonna have that passion for, kind of identify that need first and then go find the services, the nonprofits that offer those solutions. And I have never known a nonprofit that if you called them and said, “Hey, listen. I really wanna help.” I don’t know many of them that would turn down volunteers, you know, everybody needs a little help. You know, like I said, we’re all in this together. So, the more the merrier. So, I would recommend identify your passion first, reach out to that nonprofit, reach out to somebody you know who participates with that nonprofit already and ask, “How do I get involved?” They’re gonna want you to get involved, I promise.

Eric: That’s great.

Sarah: Yeah.

Eric: Is that how you got started in these?

Sarah: Yeah, it is actually. It’s kinda funny. I tend to think once you get involved in a committee, that’s usually how they get you. Started in a committee, and then it’s game over. Yeah. I think I actually…

Eric: They reel you in.

Sarah: They do. They do. I actually think after coming home from college and getting started in my professional career, I think one of my first segues was I started on a committee with Mon County Habitat for Humanity and planning one of their fundraising events. And so, after…I think it only took one year of being on that planning committee before I was asked to participate on the board. And then from there, once you’re involved in a committee, it’s very easy to stay involved because they’re gonna want you to continue to helping.

Eric: Well, I’m sure you make relationships…

Sarah: You do.

Eric: …you get friends and it becomes your own little community.

Sarah: It’s a network, you know.

Eric: Absolutely.

Sarah: You do. You care for each other, you care for the project itself, you become passionate for the people that that project is serving, which helps drive you, you know, and especially when you can see the fruits of the labor, you know, if you see firsthand, like with habitat, you could drive by and see the houses that, you know, were helped to be built for these families. So, yeah, the more firsthand…Once you’re in it, you’re probably not gonna want to walk away because there’s just so much good happening.

Eric: Yeah. Were you always like this? Did you get involved growing up in the area?

Sarah: Yes. Yes. Yeah. In high school, I was that kid that, we did not have a key club in my high school when I was there. So, my best friend and I actually worked with one of our teachers to be an advisor and we established a key club, which is a volunteer…

Eric: Key club is like volunteer group?

Sarah: Yes, it’s a volunteer service organization.

Eric: I think in mine it was called Interact. That was the…

Sarah: Yeah. Yeah. So, I think there’s a lot of different versions, but we didn’t have anything established for a volunteer club in high school. So, we changed that. And we went to the children’s hospital, we would go to the soup kitchens, we built with habitat. So, you know, then as an adult, I kind of reflected back, who would I work with when I was in high school? And those were some of the organizations I tapped back into as an adult, but, yeah.

Eric: That’s awesome.

Sarah: And then one of the things, I really hope they still do this, I don’t know if they do, but at university and high school in conjunction with doing the key club, we also piloted a program where if you graduated with over 200 hours in community service, you got a special medallion at graduation. So it was a level of recognition for seniors who had gone above and beyond with community service. So, that was something really cool. But, yeah, it’s part of who I am, I guess, you know.

Eric: It’s built-in to you.

Sarah: Yeah. I have excellent parents who are great examples of being giving and kind. And so, I think just through kind of watching them as I was growing up, yeah, it just feels like a natural part of life.

Eric: That’s awesome.

Sarah: Yeah.

Eric: That’s awesome. And I love the idea that you didn’t have a way to do it in high school, so you made the way in which…

Sarah: I’m [inaudible 00:10:43]

Eric: So, well, but it speaks to what you were talking about. You were talking about, you know, be the change you wanna see and you wanted to see the ability to make change and there wasn’t something there so you created it.

Sarah: So we did.

Eric: That’s great.

Sarah: I think that’s like, you know, if I think about what makes a West Virginian so special in my mind or a Mountaineer, you know, I heard this said recently in a presentation and I really loved it. You know, mountaineers are leaders. West Virginians, we are leaders. We’ve got grit, we’ve got, I mean, we’ve just got that Mountaineers are always free. You know, it’s our state motto. And I think that it really is very representative of who we are. So, there’s probably a little bit of a stubbornness that comes with that. And I know for me, that’s a little bit of it too, so, yeah. If there’s not an opportunity that I think needs to be there, until I have exercised every option, you know, I won’t take no. Let’s try it. Let’s see. Let’s see what we can make happen.

Eric: Absolutely.

Sarah: Yeah.

Eric: That’s awesome. That’s exciting. Well, thank you for chatting with me about community. In these bonus episodes, in these community episodes, we like to offer our listeners a parting gift, something helpful, maybe a thought, a quote, something for them to consider for the coming week that might, you now, benefit our community or to help out our community. So, do you have any parting gifts for our listeners this week?

Sarah: I do. This kinda goes back to the paying it forward and that ripple effect, if you will. So, this is coming from a place of personal. This is my personal life too.

Eric: Sure.

Sarah: So, I recently lost my grandmother.

Eric: I’m sorry.

Sarah: My grandma passed away within the last year. And so I would encourage, my challenge for you, I’m gonna make it a challenge. I like this. Make a personal challenge to you. Identify somebody in your life, whether it be a grandparent, you know, an aunt, an uncle, a neighbor, somebody who is on their own and maybe doesn’t have interaction with people on a day-to-day basis and might be a little bit lonely and pick up the phone and call them, or write them a handwritten letter, or stop by and see them. What may take an hour of your time, you probably just changed their entire day, their entire week, and it’s a blessing to them. And in the long run you’re never gonna regret that time that you spent. As much time as I spent with my grandma, I’d give anything to have more of it.

Eric: Absolutely.

Sarah: So, take that time, make somebody’s day, just do it. You’re gonna feel good about it.

Eric: I love that. And I love the idea of a handwritten letter, like, when you get something in the mail like that now, it’s so powerful.

Sarah: It is.

Eric: Oddly, it’s something so traditional, it’s like older and now it’s not…

Sarah: I think it makes a big difference and it’s something that people have kind of lost the art form of [inaudible 00:13:26]

Eric: Exactly. Exactly. We have so many other things hitting us these days, emails, and text messages, and whatnot. When you get a handwritten letter from somebody, that’s a beautiful thing.

Sarah: It breaks through the noise big time.

Eric: Absolutely.

Sarah: It really is powerful.

Eric: Absolutely.

Sarah: Yeah.

Eric: All right. Sarah, thank you so much again for joining us.

Sarah: Thank you.

Eric: And if you want to hear more episodes of our podcast, you can always find those at mybank.com/podcast, or on your favorite podcast app. And you can leave us feedback, ask questions, or request topics for us to discuss by sending an email to podcast@mybank.com. Thank you again for listening. We’ll be back next week with more helpful content and community content, but until then, we wish you the best in focusing on what matters most to you.

Recorded Voice: First United, My bank for life.

Eric: Member FDIC, equal housing lender. This recording is for informational purposes only. Any references in this recording to any person, organization, product, or service does not constitute or imply the endorsement, recommendation, or affiliation with First United Bank & Trust. First United is not responsible for your use of the information mentioned within this podcast. Please consult legal or tax professionals for counsel as needed.