National Volunteer Week Profile: Meredith Betts — Continuing the Volunteering Legacy of her Beloved Grandmother
A few months ago, MEREDITH BETTS walked into the Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities (PCRC) to offer her volunteer services while on a job search. A 2017 graduate of the University of Alabama, she majored in Public Relations with a minor in Communications Studies. She was an active member of Gamma Phi Beta sorority and participated in the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). During her job search — once again — she is volunteering at the Cluster, something that bonded her with her beloved maternal grandmother, Shirley Wilhelm, starting the summer of 2012. Volunteering and giving back to the community, you see, is in her blood.
A native of Wayne, Pennsylvania, Meredith has close ties to Pottstown. “My mother’s side of the family is all from Pottstown. My cousins were raised in Pottstown, and it became like a second home to me and my brother growing up,” Meredith remembered.“Originally, I started volunteering at the Cluster the summer before my senior year of high school. I wanted to bond with my grandmother.”
SHIRLEY WILHELM, born in 1935, grew up in Boyerstown, attended Boyertown High School, then moved to the North end of Pottstown. She worked as a seamstress for various local clothing manufacturing plants, and at the Limerick Generating Station. Shirley was a member of the Doe Club of Pottstown, Senior Circle, North End Swim Club, Church Women United, was a very active member of St. Paul’s UCC, and volunteered at the Barth Elementary school. She enjoyed walking, traveling, baking, and spending time with family. Meredith reflected that “She was funny, lively, had a giving spirit, and was always there when you needed her.” And, she spent every Tuesday morning at the Cluster.
Shirley Wilhelm came to PCRC through St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, in Pottstown, a worship center that has been a friend to PCRC for many years. After retirement, she became very heavily involved in the church “making up for lost time,” according to Meredith.
Meredith often saw her grandmother and her family — who is very close — growing up. “My grandmother ‘ran’ the family. She was the epicenter, and attended all her grandchildren’s life events.” “My grandmother liked to give back locally. She also volunteered at the Pottstown Memorial Medical Center (now Pottstown Hospital), reading books to children. She wanted to see the impact of her volunteering, instead of just writing a check,” Meredith said. Meredith and Shirley volunteered together, starting in 2012, weeding through clothing donations and organizing them for distribution.
“Growing up in Wayne, it was a different atmosphere, a more affluent community, Meredith reflected. “I enjoy volunteering at PCRC. Community members are more accepting and care more about folks’ character than possessions.” Meredith feels working at PCRC has grounded her.
A Family Philanthropic Affair
This past Christmas, Meredith’s cousin Joy suggested a family food drive to benefit PCRC, collected during the family pollyanna exchange get-together, as a way to honor Shirley, and her dedication to local caring. It was a great success, and Meredith’s cousins brought an entire SUV filled with food and personal care items to PCRC just after the holiday! In addition, every summer her family has a clambake complete with competitions and prizes. Meredith organizes the occasion, and wants to add a canned food/personal care items drive to the event this summer, benefitting PCRC.
Meredith made a promise to her uncle that she would volunteer. So when the time came where she was able to dedicate her time, she made good on her promise. And where to volunteer was a no-brainer. The Cluster is important to her whole family, especially her grandmother, who sadly died in a tragic accident in 2013.
“I volunteer at the Pottstown Cluster for Religious Communities not only because I promised my uncle, but to also honor my grandmother, her community, and the community that shaped my mom, uncle, cousins, brother, and me,” Meredith reflected.
Meredith served PCRC most recently in a social media capacity as well as whatever else was needed. She is positive, diligent, dedicated, and flexible to work with, so it was no surprise that before too long she landed a Marketing Assistant position at the King Tester Corporation. However, she has agreed to serve on the committee of PCRC’s annual fall fundraising event, “You Gotta Have Heart (for PCRC)” — which is set for Thursday, October 4, at The SunnyBrook Ballroom (check our website at pottstowncluster.org for details coming soon!). Her continued commitment to volunteering at PCRC honors her grandmother’s legacy, and PCRC is honored to have this second-generation volunteer.
"Meredith made an impression from the first time she walked in to discuss opportunities. I knew she would help our organization grow and she had ambitions for herself and PCRC. Other volunteers and staff were both elated and sad when she announced she had found a position because that meant we were losing her smile, her staple Wawa coffee, and cheerful demeanor in our pantry. However, she promised to keep coming back and we certainly intend to hold her to it!," said Samantha Brannen, PCRC's Volunteer Coordinator.
Barbara Wilhelmy, PCRC Executive Director remarked, “Shirley’s commitment to our work and her involvement through her church, in supporting homeless services in the community was inspiring. Always with a smile and a positive comment, it was a gift to PCRC to have her support. We are honored to have her grandaughter’s support to continue the family legacy of volunteerism.”
Meredith has great advice for her peers, no doubt greatly influenced by her beloved grandmother: “Giving back starts with your community. One of the best ways to create change is to start locally. Volunteering is more than just something on a college resume. It makes you feel better about yourself as well.”