Happy Wednesday and HAPPY JUNE! The countdown to Miss Tennessee is underway…with just ten more days before I arrive in Jackson! The excitement could not be more palpable, and everything seems like a blur. That’s why I’m so happy that I got to slow things down for a second and speak with our next guest, an incredible example of how your passions and your calling are so closely connected. Without further ado, this week’s Power of One Wednesday guest: Terri Staroska!
Terri was born in Tiftonia, Tennessee, a very small community on the Tennessee/Georgia border. She moved to Nashville when she was 12 and has been a proud Nashvillian ever since. Her parents were very active in church, with her father serving as a deacon and her mother still teaching Sunday school today. She has been married to her “best friend and love of my life” Dennis for 25 years this upcoming September, and have a son who currently lives in Murfreesboro.
Terri worked in the travel industry for 17 years and the commercial property management field for 12 years. She won Woman of the Year for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) for raising $35,000 in only 10 weeks (I need to learn a thing or two from her about fundraising!). She continued her impact on the organization by sharing her expertise on others who were fundraising for LLS, and was eventually asked to work for the organization. She currently serves as the Campaign Director for The Light the Night Walks for the Tennessee Chapter of LLS. Terri’s passion for service and her commitment to supporting nonprofit causes is something truly admirable, and I’m excited to share her story with you today!
Who is someone that’s inspired you and why?
I know it’s going to sound so corny, but I would have to say that the person I am most inspired by is my husband, Dennis. He inspires me in so many ways. Whenever we’re out and about and someone needs something, he lends a hand. He’s the guy who opens the door for others and does his part to make someone else’s day a little bit easier whenever he gets a chance. He’s always smiling, or figuring out a way to try and make me smile. He’s got an awesome outlook on life. Whenever I ask him about difficult things he’s been through and how he got through them, he always reminds me, “I believe that everything happens for a reason.” He is the ever-patient listener. When people are down or having a problem they need to talk through, they always seem to gravitate towards Dennis. And there’s never a day that goes by without Dennis telling me, “I’m such a lucky guy” or “You’re so beautiful; I love you so much.” He is just so kind and compassionate.
What’s a challenge you’ve faced in your life and how did you overcome it?
I have always been a very shy person. I always prefer to be in the background and put others in the limelight. So when I made the decision to change careers and come to work for LLS, I knew that I would be required to do a LOT of public speaking. It terrified me.
The first time I spoke publicly, I had everything written down on a piece of paper and I was so nervous that I couldn’t even follow along on the paper. It was terrible. But the more I spoke in public, the more I realized that the people I was talking to were not professional speakers either. On some occasions, I would even start my speech with, “I’m not a professional speaker and I have notes.” I found that the audience would chuckle and I would relax and get to it. I realized that people were not there to hear a professional speaker, they were there to learn about the work that LLS does in our community and for our patients with cancer and that if I made a mistake, it just did not matter.
What role has service played in your life and why do you think that it’s important for people to be involved in their community?
My Mom has always referred to me as “her little Giving Tree”, because I have a very soft heart and I love to help people. I have always been the type to participate in various Walks and Fundraisers; whether it be for Arthritis, Brain Tumors, Humane Association, Best Buddies, really just anything and everything. When people ask me why I’m so quick to support causes in my community, I have to be honest and say that it just plain makes me feel good! I think if more people gave volunteering a chance, they would see that it’s like an instant dose of happiness. Once you experience that feeling of happiness for helping others, it becomes a part of your life.
When people tell me that they just don’t have time to be involved or do community events, I always tell them that you don’t have to do large scale community projects to be involved. You don’t have to build a house or spend an entire day volunteering. We utilize volunteers to stop by our store partners, like Burlington, just to tell the clerks “Thank You for Supporting LLS.” It’s really just that simple! Find out what touches your heart, call up that charity and ask if there is anything that you can do to help. I’m sure there’s something big and I’m sure there’s something very small. You just have to take that first step. (Oh, and if you want to start at LLS, I have some stuff you can do!)
What’s one of your favorite things about Nashville? What’s something you think we could improve?
The one thing that I brag to all of my friends in other states about when talking about Nashville is the people. I love the people here. Very, very rarely do I ever pass by someone here that if I smile at them, they don’t smile back. It’s that feeling of happiness in our city that I love the most.
Something that we could improve… well, traffic, of course!
I’m always thrilled to speak to someone who’s turned their passions into a career, especially for such a worthwhile cause! What Terri said about helping in the small ways resonates with me so much! Sometimes, making a difference is as simple as saying the words “thank you” or “how can I help?” I hope you’ll be inspired to go out and make a difference today, in your own little way.