Lisa is the winner of the 2016 Pamela B. Art Humanitarian Award. Given annually, the award honors a Storey employee who enriches her or his community through charitable work.
Lisa Hiley is the first one to admit that she doesn’t volunteer as much as she used to. “When my daughters were younger and I was an ‘at-home’ mom, I was doing a variety of very flexible freelance work.” If she volunteers less since becoming a full-time editor at Storey, we haven’t noticed. Her days may hold less wiggle room, but that hasn’t dampened her enthusiasm for offering her time, energy, and talents whenever and wherever help is needed.
Over the years she has been a board member of a variety of organizations, including the Hoosic River Watershed Association, the Williamstown Community Chest, and Village Ambulance. From serving on church committees and as a library trustee and chairperson to serving lunch during the week at the Berkshire Food Project; from chaperoning Habitat for Humanity trips to helping at the Equus Therapeutic program; from helping a local high school through a financial crisis (and helping to found a PTO) to assisting an ailing friend who lived on disability, Lisa has an understated, no-nonsense way of lending a hand, no questions asked.
At the office, if you need someone to transport a large donation of books to a drop-off site; foster a homeless cat or offer empathy over the struggles of caring for an elderly pet; write something on demand for the website, co-host a Facebook Live video, or help feed a passion, Lisa is the ideal candidate (though be careful what you wish for; you may find a jar full of SCOBY under your desk.). We’re pretty ecstatic (though hardly surprised) that she has been named the winner of the 2016 Pamela B. Art Humanitarian Award. Congratulations, Lisa!
Where does your motivation to push up your sleeves and help come from? Is there a particular person or experience that you come back to for inspiration?
My father was in the Foreign Service, so we moved frequently and lived in some interesting countries, including Afghanistan and Sri Lanka and India. Not every aspect was great but it was quite a privileged upbringing in many ways. I’ve always been conscious of being one of the lucky ones — my life is so rich in terms of family and education and health and other circumstances. It’s a privilege that I can afford to give back, whether it’s time or money or energy.
You’ve done so much at so many different places (and in different capacities) over the years. What aspects of working in your communit(ies) do you find most rewarding?
Being connected to others in the community was an important part of it; I liked getting to know people that I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. I also liked learning about how various parts of the community work, what they need, and what could be done to improve them.
It’s no secret that we live in a time of uncertainty as a country, and there has been a great call to learn more about each other, to find ways to see shared humanity in an atmosphere of divisiveness. Has your experience working in your local communities had any impact on your perception of what it takes to accomplish this? Do you have any advice for those looking for ways to help?
I have to admit that I burned out on volunteering and was glad to cut back for a while, but this election has woken me up again. It’s time to jump back in the fray and get involved! The big picture may look overwhelming, but if we all work on the smaller pictures, we can make important changes. There’s a little story about a woman who is throwing starfish back into the ocean after thousands of them have been stranded on the beach after a big storm. “Why bother?” someone asks her. “There are so many; you can’t really make a difference.” She tosses another one in the water and says, “I can make a difference for that one.” So I guess my advice is “One starfish at a time.”
Any goals or projects for 2017 that you’re most excited about?
Right now, I’m looking forward to the Women’s March on Washington — I’ll be with my husband, my two sisters and a sister-in-law, my mother, and my older daughter (the younger one will be marching in Boston). I’ve never been to a big political protest before but I have a feeling it won’t be my last!