Where do I begin? Polly Harris is a retired school teacher of 26 years who was also an assistant principal for 7 years but, if you ask me, she hasn’t actually retired just yet. Raised in Corpus Christi, Polly now owns her own insurance agency. Interestingly enough, Polly’s father was in the insurance business and so are her husband and daughter. In addition to running her own company, Polly is constantly doing something for one organization or another. At any given time she is serving on multiple boards for all types of philanthropic purposes. Luckily, one of those boards is Youth Odyssey’s.
It all started when one of our board members, who’s also in the insurance business, Bob Corrigan, “begged” Polly and her husband to attend our annual fundraiser. They were so impressed with what we were doing that they chose to donate $5,000 at the event to help further Youth Odyssey’s mission. After the fundraiser, Bob asked if Polly would like to serve on the board and she said, yes, of course. Polly has be faithfully serving on our Board of Directors for four years now and is excited at the progress we’ve been able to make in those few short years.
In her words, “it’s gotten a lot better.” When I asked if she had any goals for the board as we move forward. She replied, “we need a bigger board because, if we have more people, there are more fundraising opportunities, more people to know, and more connections to be made.” Polly is also one of two woman on the board so she would definitely like to see “more women.” In the last year, “we’ve gotten some new blood in with fresh ideas and great personalities; people that can help us think outside the box .” Polly’s idea is, we need “busy people” on board. She believes that busy people are busy because they make time for things; and who wouldn’t want someone to take the time and make it (the board) work. Another goal she has, is to “look for young, innovative people who want to do something for their community.” When it all boils down to it, Polly believes our board is heading in the right direction.
Polly also has high hopes for Youth Odyssey’s future as an organization. She wants Youth Odyssey to eventually be able to hold bigger camps so more kids would be able to attend. She hopes that, through networking and getting our name and information out and into the community more that we can have more active volunteers, to make this a reality. She hopes that in the next few years we will also increase the number of full time staff so we can expand our programming as well. Eventually, she would like us to bring in enough money that we wouldn’t need to worry about fundraising. She hopes that we would be self-sufficient through grants and annual giving from donors so that a fundraiser wouldn’t need to be our main focus of funds for camps and other programming.
Polly has said she has “one speed, and it’s Go” since she’s constantly on the go from one thing to the next. Because of this, I was curious as to what Youth Odyssey is doing right to keep her on our board and her response pretty much hits the nail on the head: “My passion is children and you all do amazing things, especially to those kids who would never get the chance to have those experiences. I worked in education for 26 years and saw those kids every single day. This is a great thing and I like to be involved in great things. I have four kids in Africa that I sponsor and my husband and I adopted a 17 year old boy. I am always trying to help people, and Youth Odyssey is doing the same. I think every kid should have a chance to gain leadership skills, in a variety of ways. I think that’s the reason that these at risk youth fail is because they never get the unique opportunities that Youth Odyssey teaches. The life skills that Youth Odyssey focuses on (communication, leadership, trust, problem solving, goal setting, and teamwork) are all the foundation for a successful person and will be used constantly throughout their lives. The sooner they have that foundation and understand its importance the sooner they can start to see and reach their potential.” In short, Mrs. Polly Harris isn’t going anywhere soon.
She does, eventually, plan on retiring from her work and when she does that she is going to “really retire, from everything” all the boards she is on and all the other projects she has her hands in. Polly lives on 7 acres and has horses and grandkids that she would like to focus on. She will still be a presence, I’m sure, but you can’t a blame a girl for wanting to just kick back and relax. The good news is that she isn’t quite there yet. Polly told me she will be sticking around for a few more years and will leave when she feels herself and Youth Odyssey are in a good place; and that sounds pretty good to me.