Her new job is helping others

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 20, 2006

One Suffolk woman has made it her new job to give back to the community.

Lou Pollard’s civic-mindedness evolved over time, starting with encouragement from her parents during her school

years. But the force that propelled her into a life devoted to various causes was born of tragedy.

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Pollard was a successful career woman in Norfolk, spending long hours in the office, when, in a sad twist, she lost both her parents in quick

succession n her mother to illness and her father in a car accident when someone ran a red light. The losses, combined with the fact that she and her husband wanted to have a child, help put life in perspective for her. She wanted to slow down and breathe.

So she left her job and within a year had a daughter. But there was an itch to be involved with something. Then Pollard joined the Western Branch Chapter of Mothers & More, a group for stay-at-home moms and their children. Her go-getter nature wouldn’t let her be satisfied with just being a member; she would go on to start a community service arm of the group. Their activities included volunteering at an assisted living facility and giving time to REACH.

Pollard moved back to her native Suffolk, where most know her as Linda Bell (she picked up the nickname Lou in college), and soon her daughter was ready for school. It was time to find new ways to help people, and it happened that she was invited to an orientation meeting for Suffolk 60 Care. She had gone to Nansemond-Suffolk Academy with the three founding members, and thought the organization’s mission a good one.

Their goal was to recruit 60 members in the first year and focus on community service projects in Suffolk. In their inaugural year, they made those goals and now have given time to many different projects, including the Suffolk Shelter for the Homeless (now called The Center for Hope & New Beginnings), Project Linus and the Hampton Roads Youth Center.

The activity involving the shelter last year included six volunteer opportunities on an average week, such as an after-school program for area youth and the children at the shelter, she said.

“We would tutor and help them complete their homework in conjunction with a program set up by a local church.”

After serving as projects chair the founding year, Pollard chaired the grants committee, which was responsible for creating a proposal process.

“We had 12 entities apply for the grant and were pleased to award the funds to five local organizations for a total of $20,000.”

After the grants process concluded, she transitioned to the communications committee where she

handles public relations. The organization’s new Signature Project for the year is the Hampton Roads Youth Center, where they are assisting with a new art therapy program that their grant helps to fund as well as helping the staff.

Amy Birdsong, a fellow member of S60C, said Pollard is an inspiration to her because many people don’t volunteer their time until they are older or retired.

“Lou has always been civic-minded and volunteered her time not only to the administrative side of things, but directly with people in need as well and for countless organizations. Her experience in the philanthropic world was also vital in helping Suffolk 60 Care get off the ground and make such a significant impact so quickly.”

Birdsong said she had never volunteered directly until starting with S60C, and through observing people like Pollard, she realized how important it is that people who fortunate start right now making a contribution.

“Even when she is insanely busy- she still is there for all the organizations she helps,” Birdsong said.

And Pollard helps many an organization, including serving on the board of the Cedar Point Association, her neighborhood group, fundraising for her daughter’s small private school in Churchland, and helping with projects at her church, Ebenezer United Methodist.

“I don’t think I could do just one thing,” she said.