Alumna Discovers Interest in Nonprofit Work

Posted on July 31st, 2016 by Emily Tomlinson

epstein_morganWhen Morgan Epstein ’15 was a high school senior looking at colleges, Averett University wasn’t on the list. It was not until she asked one of her teachers for a reference that she heard of Averett for the first time. According to Epstein, her teacher, Joe Franks, husband of Averett president Dr. Tiffany Franks, refused to sign her recommendation letter for another school. He told her she needed to go to Averett instead.

“I had never heard of (Averett) even though it was only 45 minutes away,” Epstein said.

Franks persisted and Epstein finally consented to visit the school. During her visit, she was drawn to the fact the university had a women’s tennis team, and she liked the small classroom size. She also realized that a small, private school was right up her alley.

“I loved that the professors knew you,” said Epstein, who still keeps in touch with several of her professors now that she’s graduated. “I felt comfortable going to staff and administration with anything, and that was a big deal to me.”

Once she graduated, Epstein’s original thought was to continue on to graduate school, but she didn’t want to have more student loans to pay off. She began looking at other options and learned about AmeriCorps’ VISTA Program. VISTA members serve in full-time positions at anti-poverty organizations and agencies around the country. Epstein had been interested in community service since she was little and an added incentive to serving as a VISTA was that a portion of her student loans would be paid off.

“I knew I wanted to stay in Danville another year so when I saw God’s Storehouse was an option (for places to serve) I decided that’s where I wanted to be. I didn’t know anything about them or anyone there,” a scenario that appealed to her. “It was like moving to a different place without actually moving to a different place.”

As a psychology major at Averett, Epstein conducted a lot of research “and that helped prepare me for the real world. I do a lot of research now” for God’s Storehouse.

As a VISTA member at God’s Storehouse, Epstein coordinated fundraising, including grant writing and securing money for food; resource outreach; and marketing, which included managing the organization’s Facebook page, Instagram and website.

“Grant writing came naturally to me for some reason. I had to figure out how to do things and then get it done. As a nonprofit, they needed this money to operate.

“My biggest success was writing a $75,000 grant to Walmart for a refrigerated truck that we were awarded. It was only about five months after I started so that was very exciting and rewarding, to see the fruits of that labor and know where it goes.”

Another benefit to Epstein during her work with God’s Storehouse was her psychology degree.

“Being a psych major helped because we see all sorts of people walk in. I was able to relate to them because my degree gave me a better understanding of why they acted the way they did. Knowing how the brain works helped in certain situations.”

Epstein’s year of service as a VISTA member with God’s Storehouse is nearly over and she’s ready to move on to her next job as program officer for the Community Foundation. She will be overseeing grants and scholarships.

“I never thought I’d like to work in nonprofit, so God’s Storehouse showed me how working in a nonprofit is pretty awesome. I discovered I really like the work.”

She also likes Danville.

“I never thought I’d live here after Averett, but after being here for five years and seeing the changes, it makes me want to see what else is in store for the city. It makes me want to be a part of that. There are a lot of opportunities for young people that I wasn’t aware of. I’m not ready to leave Danville yet.”