Spotlight on Development Team – Trish Fries
For the last several weeks the Urban Ministry Center blog has featured stories about our staff members and the excellent work they do. We hope you enjoy learning about our team members and what they love about UMC.
Trish met me in the shade of an arbor earnestly constructed by a boy scout in the UMC garden. A gigantic spider was slowly making its way up my shoulder as we sat down to talk. Trish coolly swept the unwelcome companion off of my sweater and comforted me saying that it was not in fact gigantic, or even “a big one” as I was claiming so emphatically.
How did she keep such a cool head? Was it from spending hours in the garden used to creepy-crawlies, or just her Midwest sensibilities? Trish grew up in Toledo, Ohio and went on to do her undergrad in anthropology at Cincinnati before getting a masters in environmental science at Miami University. When asked about her hobbies Trish laughs and mentions that TV is “not really a hobby.” Besides catching up with reality shows, Trish also loves to cook and to travel. Last year she visited Peru and she just got back from a visit to England.
Trish grew up coming down to visit an aunt in Charlotte, and decided to move down here herself to be close to her brother and other family. Before moving, Trish worked on the development team for a children’s home for kids in the foster care system. From there she began working with homeless families in the school system.
Once in Charlotte, Trish attended Homeless Services Network (HSN) meetings looking for volunteer opportunities, and found the UMC Garden on Idealist. She came to love working in the garden each week and started to look into full time positions with the Urban Ministry Center. When she met Dale at a HSN meeting he asked her to send over her resume. As it turned out, the development team was looking to hire someone and the garden was also in need of a coordinator. Trish fit the bill.
On the Development Team, Trish has a diverse set of projects, from managing the database, to writing e-news and social media. She struggles to pin down one favorite part of her job. “I really like all the parts of my job actually. I really like databases and figuring out problems. I like putting together the e-news and getting those messages out to people.” Development is a challenging area to work in as “we have to know a little bit about what everyone is doing, so we can explain it well to donors and to our supporters,” and the “weight of the responsibility of raising money for this whole organization has gotten huge.”
Trish also continues to work in the garden, engaging with volunteers and sharing about UMC’s mission. The garden is “a good introduction to the community to come here and really feel like they’re making a difference.” The garden does not only involve volunteer groups, it also serves as a means of engaging with neighbors and providing food. Vegetables from the garden go to “Friendship Trays, which is Charlotte’s meals on wheels program” and sometimes go to the kitchen as well. For example at least half of the sweet potatoes go directly to the kitchen and “Sandra makes sweet potato pie at thanksgiving for everybody.” Individuals in food insecure households come to the garden for produce, and sometimes neighbors come up just for a snack. The garden also serves as a place to congregate, and “a lot of people will just come up and chat, like what’s that, and talk about when they were kids, and what they would do in their garden.” Most of all, the garden, much like UMC itself, is a place of community. (And we have Trish and others to thank for keeping that community flourishing) Trish mentions that when she carries produce from the garden, neighbors will sometimes exclaim “we grew that in our garden?” Yes we did.