I am RIFA – Mandy White
We’d like to take a moment to introduce you to Mandy White, Chief Economic Development Officer at the Greater Jackson Chamber, and RIFA’s new Board President. Mandy’s term as Board President officially began July 1st of this year. We spoke with Mandy about her involvement in the community and with RIFA over the years.
A native of Ashland City, Tennessee, Mandy first moved to Jackson in 1994 to attend Union University. After graduation, Mandy moved home for a few months before moving back to Jackson. It was after she moved back that she first heard about RIFA through the Kiwanis Club. Mandy explained that it was Ryan Porter, RIFA’s Board President at the time, who really sparked her interest in RIFA. “He was a friend and coworker,” Mandy said. “I worked with him all six years he served with RIFA. I saw his passion for the organization and it really intrigued me. I thought if I was ever given the opportunity to be involved, I’d be interested.”
Mandy officially joined RIFA’s board in July of 2020. “Normally, you serve on a board for a while and are then pulled onto a committee. I was immediately pulled onto the executive committee to serve in the role of treasurer,” she said. “I really took time to pour myself into that and learn more about the organization. As treasurer, I became more familiar with the budget and the diverse revenue streams. I wanted to make sure I could be as knowledgeable as possible so I could be as impactful as possible.”
Mandy served as treasurer for one year, then as vice president for two years before becoming board president this summer. During her three years at RIFA, Mandy has been involved in Pack the Bus, Canstruction, Bus Stop Cafe, Snack Backpack, the healthcare benefits task force, and strategic planning, along with attending other RIFA events.
We asked Mandy if she ever thought she would be board president when she joined the board. She laughed and said no. “In fact, Lisa will tell you I ask a lot of questions. I’m at a point in my career and my life where it’s about quality not quantity. I want to do things that are fulfilling to me and to which I feel like I can contribute.”
When asked if she felt a connection to a specific event or ministry, Mandy said Help-Portrait and the Bus Stop Cafe have been impactful to her. Help-Portrait is an event that occurs every December. Participants have their portrait taken, printed, and given to them at no cost. “Seeing those people who came and might not have ever been doted on like they were by the ladies fixing their hair and doing their makeup. They’re so important but they don’t always feel that way. I think that day they felt important. It was really cool to see.”
Mandy’s testimony about the Bus Stop Cafe is really something special. “Being on the Bus Stop Cafe and going into those communities and seeing those children run to us as if we were the popsicle bus – and we served salami sandwiches that day. It’s easy to talk about our programs and that people are hungry and the difference we make, but I felt it that day. While I was there I saw a child playing with something on the table and he left it there by accident. When he left, I went over and picked it up, and it was a spent shell casing. I know that doesn’t have anything to do with hunger, but the fact that that child felt so comfortable picking it up and playing with it. It didn’t even resonate with him. I appreciated that we were able to give such a safe, loving, nurturing experience for children that are involved in that kind of stuff every day.”
Mandy said during her time as president, she’d love for board members to have experiences on the Bus similar to hers. “It clearly still affects me a year later. Whatever ministry that is, whatever event that is, I really think it would help our organization if our board members could have a moment like that so they can tell where the emotion comes across. It’s one thing to articulate what you read on paper; it’s important to do that, but handing that Snack Backpack at the end of the Bus Stop Cafe was different. Talking to teachers at Pack the Bus, who are there on the front lines and have seen what a difference it makes. I would love for our board to have that experience.”
Mandy’s job at the Chamber also gives her a unique opportunity to see how RIFA makes a difference in our community. “I think the numbers speak for themselves,” she said. “With 48% of all households in Jackson living either in poverty or earning just above the federal poverty level and 24% of children in Madison County being food insecure, we are clearly making a difference. My job is to make our community better. Specifically, to recruit manufacturing companies to town who need skilled employees, which means they need to be able to pay attention in school to be a prepared workforce. A hungry child is not focused. A hungry child has health issues. There are all sorts of implications. My goal is to create jobs where families can meet their basic needs and more. If RIFA helps with hunger, students can more easily learn and are going to be more successful in the workforce, which makes our community better.”
When asked how she’s seen Christ work at RIFA, Mandy simply said, “He provides. An example is the recent expansion of the warehouse. God provided, especially through covid. Where a lot of nonprofits and businesses suffered and struggled, RIFA thrived. Because of that expansion, we can now serve more people.” She continued, “He’s provided financially. He provides by allowing us to recruit a staff that is committed to the mission – a staff that cares about service over self. A board that does the same. He provides people, resources, and ideas for what direction we should go or not go. I think He has provided for so long that we have a great reputation in this community of being good stewards of our donors’ money for His service.”
Mandy expressed how grateful she is to serve on RIFA’s board. “I’m really proud to be a part of RIFA. I’ve had the benefit of serving on a lot of different boards and still do, but every time I walk in this door I get the best feeling. I love coming over here. I love being with the staff. I love seeing the people we serve. I love thinking about the difference we make. I’m so grateful that this community supports this organization and allows us to serve them through Him.”
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