When Paula and George Lipford’s younger son Daniel left for Wheaton College three years ago, the typical signs of empty nest syndrome - depression and sense of loss - didn’t appear.
Instead, the Lipfords added to their list of things to do. A new career for Paula, improved health habits for both and opening their home to foreign-exchange students were just a few of the things the Cary couple wanted to accomplish.
Paula, 56, hoped to parlay her years of volunteer and consulting experiences into a full-time career. Despite having an impressive list of leadership roles with education organizations, including Wake Education Partnership, Success by Six, and the Wake PTA Council, Paula felt her resume was getting lost.
“I wasn’t sure how to bring together all the years at home as a mom and trying to juggle part-time consulting work with volunteer,” Paula said.
Everything clicked when Paula saw a job for a non-profit that needed someone with experience managing volunteers.
“Working for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society is like a marriage of my volunteer passion and God-given talent for connecting with others,” said Paula, who is now the Director of Volunteer Engagement for the company. After a short time on the MS job, Paula’s role grew from working locally to raise awareness and money to a job overseeing 82 counties in North Carolina and all of South Carolina.
George is Paula’s rock and best volunteer.
“Paula’s real passion is not just getting people to help and volunteer, but to help them find ways to use the passions they already have in a cause that helps change the lives of others,” George said.
At first, George filled a volunteer gap at National Multiple Sclerosis Society as a photographer. When his wife got the bicycle fundraisers rolling, George got in gear on his own bike and began participating in events such as the MS 150 that was held in Texas last spring.
In the process of training for events, George lost 40 pounds and gained a healthier lifestyle that includes exercising over an hour a day and eating a low carbohydrate diet. Paula’s healthier eating habits and lifestyle changes helped her lose 25 pounds.
Their passion for volunteering to help others extends beyond the work at the nonprofit. The Lipfords are on the Wheaton Parent College Board and serve as health services resource for diabetic students.
“It’s like college PTA. It was hard to say no,” said Paula.
The Lipfords have hosted two foreign exchange students and are looking forward to the September bike events to support multiple sclerosis fundraising.
Through it all, the Lipfords have relied on their faith in God. “It’s always amazing to me how God answers prayers and changes hearts,” Paula said.
Published in the Cary News on September 5, 2012.
Picture credit, George Lipford.
Liza is the Faith Filter columnist for the Cary News. Her stories of faith and lives changed by trusting in God are published about four times a year.