Office Admin graduate helps folks during COVID-19
September 23, 2020

When  United Way of Grey Bruce wanted to launch a website aimed at connecting volunteers with folks isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic, they hired Misty Schonauer, a recent graduate from Georgian’s Office Administration – Executive program to co-ordinate the project. They were familiar with Misty’s wonderful skills and work ethic because she had completed a co-op placement with them last summer.

Francesca Dobbyn, Executive Director for United Way of Grey Bruce, says Misty has been a valuable asset for the United Way’s response to COVID-19.

“Misty has managed TheDo, connecting people to resources, volunteers to safe opportunities as well as assisting United Way staff as their departments respond to community need,” says Francesca. “Her skills, compassion and attention to detail has enhanced our work in the community.”

TheDo,  a mobile friendly website, was launched during the pandemic and has helped more than 100 people to date.

We caught up with Misty to ask her about the project and her experience at Georgian.

How was your experience at Georgian? The instructors were, and still are, very supportive. My Office Administration program offered diverse and relevant courses. The campus itself was great, as were all the staff. The skills I learned at Georgian have been very useful and have also broadened since my work at the United Way.

Why did you choose office administration? I chose administration because it was different from what I was doing and a lot different than the first program I graduated from (welding). There are so many different options within that one field to choose from. 

What are six words you would use to describe yourself? Creative. Mother. Compassionate. Adaptable. Capable. Patient.

How is your work experience going? This summer is completely different than when I did my co-op with them before. My “summer” this time around started quite early (in March!) because of the pandemic. There’s been so much happening that has allowed me to grow as a person and as an administrative assistant.

My coworkers are amazing and very helpful. Everyone here is very understanding, patient and incredibly supportive. Any time I struggle or I’m just not sure of the direction I should head in, everyone is available for support or guidance.

When I have ideas, I feel confident I can share them or bounce them around with others. I also love the diversity of tasks. You could be working on data entry one moment, and the next you’re helping solve an issue for someone in need or you could be helping with packing backpacks with essential items for those in need. This is the 16th year for our Backpack Program which supplies fully stocked backpacks to children of low-income families across Bruce and Grey Counties. So, you can see that the opportunities are endless and keep me on my toes.

What are you doing now at the United Way? My duties are different than what they were on my co-op placement. My main duties then were data entry, covering the front desk occasionally, co-ordinating the Seniors’ Fair and other office duties when needed.

This time around I’ve been co-ordinating TheDo, covering the front desk, and I assisted with our Food Hamper Project: packing, delivering and acquiring quarantine craft kits for the family hampers. There are many other office duties that I contribute to that I would not be able to list them all.

Tell us a bit about TheDo. TheDo is an initiative that was created for those who needed assistance during COVID-19. Assistance could be anything from help getting food, finding supports in a community, receiving phone calls from a volunteer, to getting groceries or prescriptions delivered to their home.

What are some of your main priorities? My main priority is to make sure people are being connected with the right services that can help them in their unique situations. I also provide them with accurate and up-to-date information, make sure they’re safe and that their basic needs are being met.

An older female with long blonde hair flanked by two children: a young boy with dark hair on the left and a young boy with blonde hair on the right

Can people volunteer to help out? Yes!The other half of TheDo is for those who can help. People can sign up on our website and help with making daily phone calls to chat with people who are self-isolating. They can also commit to making weekly, or less frequent calls, to socially chat with people self-isolating. Other things they can help with are:

  • Translation – written, verbal or both
  • Foster or board a pet for a person in the hospital
  • Play online games (like Scrabble) with people
  • Write social letters, or cards that are mailed out
  • Assist with safe fundraising (no in-person events)
  • Do a variety of different types of pick-ups and porch drop offs
  • Advocate on behalf of the community and share information

They’re able to choose as many, or as little, of these options as they want to do.

How long will you be working at the United Way? I was recently informed that my contract has been extended until March 2021, which is really great. Now I can assist Francesca with future projects and help with other administrative duties.

Have you always had a passion for helping others? I think I have. I know what it’s like to be in need, to be lost and unsure of what to do or where to go next. Throughout my life I’ve tried to help others in any way I can. I’ve been on several local and provincial committees. I’ve also been, and still am, a strong believer in peer advocacy. Accepting my position at the United Way was an easy choice for me, as our purpose is to help the community.

Have you seen a big response from the community to help? Oh most definitely! I have almost 300 volunteers. If people are unable to volunteer in some capacity, they’ve donated money to help (you can do this on the website). Most of our community is quick to offer a helping hand in some way.

Are people still coming to you for help? There are people still in need, but we’re all doing our part to help them. Connecting with other organizations and agencies to make sure everyone is taken care of is the most important thing.

You’re a mother of two. Were there any challenges balancing school and family life? I do have two children – boys, who are 10 and almost 13. There are challenges being a mother and a student, but my children are very supportive of me continuing my education. We would do homework together and help each other study for tests. Being a mother and a student is a lot like being at the office; prioritize, work together, organize and support, and you’ll all succeed.

What advice would you give someone interested in going into the administration field? My advice would be to explore what exactly you want to do as there are many different types of administration out there: medical, data entry, etc. Try out a bit of everything is what I would recommend. I’m still new to this field of work myself! I’m enjoying the organizing aspect, being able to connect with so many people and learning so much.