April 9, 2019
United Way of Central Indiana’s poverty simulations give people an in-depth look at what life is like for individuals who struggle with attaining their most basic needs. This experience is so powerful that it often leaves many who participate wondering what they can do to help people in their local communities discover a path to self-sufficiency.
Jennifer Knotts of Aqua Indiana, Inc. had her first encounter with a poverty simulation at a coordinators workshop through her company a couple of years ago. Since then, she’s not only become an advocate for United Way programs, she has spearheaded her company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility through other volunteer initiatives as well.
We chatted with Jennifer and learned more about what inspired her to become an inspiration for anyone interested in becoming a volunteer for basic needs.
Why did you choose to volunteer with United Way?
My boss kind of pushed me into it. I hadn’t volunteered before, so one of the first things I did was go to a coordinators workshop about five years ago. It helps you get an idea of what other companies do. Each year, I grew more and more involved and in the last two years, I did a poverty simulation during one of the United Way coordinator trainings. It was a real eye-opening experience. I work for a water utility company that deals mostly with waste water in Indiana and other states that we serve. You see where your customers struggle, especially during the holidays, and watching that and going through those poverty simulations helps you be more in touch with what your customers are going through. I became a champion for wanting to help everyone else, especially my company, understand what that meant.
You sort of touched on this already, but what inspires you personally to serve?
For me, personally, its about knowing that I can help someone. I was telling a friend about the simulation the other day and they mentioned how passionate I seemed about it. I never even realized my passion — I was just trying to help someone understand how others go through life. Volunteering, specifically with the poverty simulations, is about educating people. They are amazing because they show you that people may be trying to do what’s best, but they don’t always know where to turn.
What other volunteer opportunities, if any, are you involved in outside of United Way?
Because we are a water utility company, there’s an event every August that’s called Run for World Water. Participants can choose to run or walk around the canal in downtown Indianapolis. I’m responsible for the t-shirts and registration for the event and I’ve been doing that for about four years. It’s always exciting because you can see how you are helping others while spreading awareness about the importance of clean water. I’ve also been doing some work with Gleaners. We do a volunteer day with our employees and volunteer when they have an influx of donations that need to get separated out for grocery stores.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is looking to volunteer in any capacity?
I would begin with seeing what your company or employer is doing or how they give back to the community, every company does something different. I would say go into it with an open mind and an open heart, don’t go in thinking you have to do it.
Join fellow #GameChangers like Jennifer by becoming a poverty simulation volunteer today!