Congratulations to Elaine VanCleave and George Houk, our ONE Members of the Month for January! Elaine and George are the dynamic who runs ONE’s field operations in Nashville. Both have been involved with ONE for almost 10 years. I had a chance to interview them both this month and chat about their involvement with ONE, their passions and what inspires them.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
George: I’m retired but still working. In addition to my work with ONE, I work at an Apple Store in Nashville, am a volunteer driver for the American Cancer Society, chair a Nashville based charity, DesanaGiving, and am active in my church as the Director of International Missions, member of the choir and webmaster. I have three children (Josh, Matt and Ben) and one granddaughter – Kaleigh.
Elaine: I moved to Nashville in 2011 after living in Birmingham for the previous 25 years. I’m married and have three grown daughters. My husband and I ran an indie record store in Birmingham for 14 years. I “retired” after we closed the store.
How long have you been involved with ONE? What prompted your involvement?
George: I joined ONE in 2005. It was a good fit with my charity work and with my beliefs. At the time, I worked as a volunteer driving the 50 miles from Shelbyville TN to local ONE events before moving back to Nashville. In 2012 I became a Congressional District Leader (CDL) for ONE.
Elaine: I got involved with ONE in the summer of 2004. David Beckmann, the president of Bread for the World, shared a video from the ONE launch in Philadelphia with me because of my interest in the Jubilee 2000 campaign. A long time member of Bread for the World, one of ONE’s original founding partners, I got involved in the Jubilee Debt Relief campaign in 1999.
What has been your favorite experience with ONE?
George: There are so many! The 2012 CDL Summit, getting to know Congressman Cooper, and growing the Nashville community of ONE members into an even bigger organization of leaders.
Elaine: The ultimate experience for me happened during a trip to rural Zambia. I traveled two hours into the bush to attend an AIDS outreach clinic and saw medicines – made available because of PEPFAR – being dispensed to villagers in a rural sub-Saharan two-room mud hut with no electricity. That experience completed the circle for me. A continent away, I was able to witness firsthand the results of our advocacy efforts in the US. At that moment, I knew for sure “why I do what I do” as a ONE member.
What is the most challenging thing about being an activist for ONE and our issues?
Elaine: The hardest part about ONE is convincing people that we are non-partisan and that smart foreign aid is effective. You can do it. Even the most skeptical will come around.
What are ONE members in Nashville like?
George: Once they get involved, either online or at a local event, they become more and more passionate about what they have accomplished as a member of a much bigger organization. They understand that their “click” online or manning a table at an event really does make a difference.
Elaine: Nashville ONE members are very smart, enthusiastic and committed. The best thing about Nashville is that we have lots of partner organizations here that we can team up with to promote the cause.
Who inspires you?
George: Kathy Houk – founder of DesanaGiving. Kathy is a cancer survivor that founded Desana after her chemo treatment for one full year and being told to “prepare for the worst.” She is now cancer free after eight years. Kathy lives in Uganda and oversees the DesanaGiving projects working with street children from the Kampala slums and children in the children’s prison.
Elaine: My main inspiration for working on hunger and poverty issues is Jesus’ story in Matthew 25 about “the least of these.” When asked what it took to “get into heaven,” Jesus didn’t talk about church attendance or memorizing Bible verses. He was more concerned about how you treat the poor and the hungry. That story really inspires me and guides me.
Big thank you to Elaine and George for all the amazing work they do for ONE. Want to nominate someone for the next Member of the Month? Want to get involved? Email Charlie at [email protected] with the subject line, “Member of the Month.”