Amarillo National Bank has been a key economic contributor to the Amarillo community. The Wares’ last name is well known for their community influence. For five generations, the Ware family has owned ANB.
Lizzie Ware-Mason, however, is also known for her community involvement through volunteer efforts. Ware-Mason founded Hands On Amarillo, an online portal that connects volunteers and nonprofit organizations, in 2014.
Celeste Paulson: How did you start volunteering?
Lizzie Ware-Mason: It’s always been something my family encouraged. My mom was always volunteering in the schools and with different things that we were involved in as kids. And when I moved back here, I was just working pretty much and I would help out at the restaurant some, but I didn’t have a whole lot else to do.
I emailed a friend of mine that worked at Susan G. Komen – that does the race for the cure – and I said I wanted to get involved. That was in 2004, and that kind of kicked off my volunteer career. I helped hand out Krispy Kream doughnuts at that race, and the next year I was on the committee.
Since then, I’ve chaired the race, I’ve joined lots of different boards, and I worked a lot with different children and that just kind of got me working a lot in the community.
Personally, I really enjoy helping people. I like knowing that there is still hope out there – that people can rely on someone else to give them a hand up in the world. Even though I may never meet the people that I’m helping, I still think it’s important that there are people out there that are willing to give a hand out to somebody who just needs a little bit of help.
Paulson: Does your family get involved in volunteering, too?
Ware-Mason: Absolutely. Everyone in my family, my bank families and all the employees here are involved in lots of different boards – from Parenting Cancer Centres to Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch and Children’s Miracle Network. I mean lots of different things.
We try to encourage all of our employees here to be involved as well, because the Ware family is very passionate about helping the community. We want them to be passionate about what they’re serving on – not just go serve on a board – and find something that you want to do where you feel like you can be helpful.
It’s not a forced thing; it’s more of we want you to find something that you enjoy, so go do it and volunteer.
Paulson: You went to the Austin Community College for volunteer management training. How did that help you form Hands On Amarillo?
Ware-Mason: I decided to form Hands On Amarillo through my job here. I had a couple of people that called wanting to get involved but didn’t know how. I was looking at websites, making phone calls and researching certain things that they may or may not be interested in. I didn’t know really. It’s a hard to match the personality of someone you don’t really know that well to a charity that they may or may not be interested in.
After hours and hours and hours of doing it for just these two people, I thought, “There’s got to be a better way.” I thought maybe I could come up with a website that will just match people with what they want to do. I found this class at ACC and I thought I better go down and get certified in volunteer management first before I decide to do this so people would take me seriously.
I went down there and while I was there, I met some people that used the software that we used through Hands On Amarillo, now called Get Connected, and it was basically everything that I wanted and more. I contacted some of those organizations that were already using it. They all said it was really dependable. I did a lot of research on the company, and then I contacted them and it just kind of went from there.
So, for the site, it’s been up and running since November of 2014.
Paulson: Do many people participate in the website?
Ware-Mason: Right now we have close to seven hundred individuals that are signed up, and we have over 80 nonprofit agencies that are signed up. We have a good amount of organizations. Now, we are looking to grow the individual side to get more volunteers.
Paulson: Do you have any specifications for organizations to join your website?
Ware-Mason: My only requirement is that they are a nonprofit. It can be a full-profit event, but they have to be supporting a nonprofit. We are not going to put a business or corporation on there.
The nonprofits are endless; we have over 250 in Amarillo alone. We have a little over 80 right now, and I would like to expand. We can service the whole top 26 counties if we wanted to.
Paulson: Do you advertise for Hands On Amarillo?
Ware-Mason: So far, we’ve only used social media and word of mouth. We operate on a very small budget, so we don’t do a whole lot of advertising. But once we can grow it a little bit, we probably will.
We are working on something that we want to do with the nonprofits, which is they’ll have their volunteers registry through our site and then push back to them. The site has so much capability as far as doing reporting for them, hours for them or looking for something as far as doing background checks.
There are lots of capabilities that they don’t necessarily have the time, people or energy to take care of. The site has the capability; we just need to keep them up to date on the training about what all it can do. Since it’s a free resource for them, it will be to their advantage to use it.
Paulson: How have you kept Hands On Amarillo growing?
Ware-Mason: It’s through donations. We haven’t had to do a whole lot of fundraising.
The first year I got enough funding, I asked just a few people to back me.
I put in some money of my own and then asked some people in my dad’s memory to give, and the bank gave me a good size of a donation.
We don’t really need a whole lot because no one is paid. I don’t get paid to do it, so it’s kind of a volunteer thing for me, too. It’s basically paying for software and then some marketing items.
Paulson: If community members are unable to volunteer at events or don’t have time, are there any suggestions you have for them to get involved in the community?
Ware-Mason: If you can give time through churches or through schools, try to give that way. People forget that volunteering doesn’t necessarily have to be with an organization – it can be so much as going to your next door neighbor’s house and helping them mow the lawn or helping them carry their groceries.
People are removing themselves from things like that, maybe out of fear or laziness, but I think that people forget that that too is considered as a form of volunteering. I think volunteering in those kind of things can push things in a more positive direction.
Paulson: What do you think people can gain from helping – from volunteering in their community?
Ware-Mason: Overall I think the community is a whole. There is strength in numbers, and I think that more people doing good is positive for the community as a whole. I think personally, no matter what kind of person you are, the more good things you do the more positive outlook you start to have.
With Komen, kids that were on probation come help us with the race. People would look down on them, and I would just tell them they are here doing positive things. I know that a couple of them, when they left, told their probation officers that they were really excited that they really felt like their help is making a difference.
It doesn’t have to be that you’re the one saving the world. You can just be a tiny piece of it. You have to have someone on every level; you can’t just start at the top. Every level of volunteering is important.
Paulson: How would you define the Amarillo community?
Ware-Mason: I think Amarillo is thriving. I’ll say this: Moving back here at 21, I was not excited. But now, at 38, I am thrilled to live here. I think that raising a family here is great. All the growth downtown, I think, is going to be great. The good part about the construction is that it means that we are growing.
I think that, to bring bigger stuff here, we’ve just got to get a bigger mentality. I think that Amarillo is a thriving city that is going to be doing great things very soon.
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