Meredith Davis is Director of Guardianship Programs at the Center for At-Risk Elders (CARE). She began her relationship with the Center for At-Risk Elders as a Volunteer Advocate and joined the staff this August.
Meredith graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Georgia and will finish a Master’s degree in Human Services with a concentration in Social Services Administration at the University of Illinois – Springfield in December 2017. She has worked in the non-profit sector for the past five years and is passionate about advocacy and person-centered services. Meredith hopes to grow the guardianship program through recruiting and retaining volunteers who want to protect elders from abuse, neglect and exploitation.
In her free time, Meredith enjoys volunteering in her Near Eastside neighborhood and serving as a member of the executive board of her Daughters of the American Revolution chapter. She is also trying to find time to plan a wedding, organize a UGA alumni group in Indy, study, and say yes to all the interesting projects that she hears other motivated nonprofit professionals talk about.
How long have you lived in Indy?
I moved to Indianapolis in 2009. I had been working in my college town in Georgia and, two years post-graduation, I needed a fresh start. I have learned to love Indy and bought a house in the Near Eastside neighborhood of Little Flower two years ago. I love being in the big city after growing up in small towns in Ohio and Texas.
Why have you focused your career on the nonprofit sector?
I don’t think that I ever intended to have a career exclusively in the nonprofit world but the work itself is so challenging and rewarding that it is easy to come back each day. I know that I do my best work when I’m pushed to do new things and every day in a nonprofit is a fresh challenge. I come back for the challenge and I come back for the measurable effect that my work can have on people’s lives. To be able to see that what I did yesterday directly led to improved well-being for someone today is something more difficult to find in a for-profit career.
After several years of working in nonprofits, I decided that I wanted to take it a step further. I’m halfway through a Master’s program in Human Services and Social Services Administration. My hope is that this additional education will propel me into more “big picture” nonprofit things such as organizational and administrative functions but also give me some tools to influence policy on a macro level.
How did you find your current position?
I am actually brand new in my role. I started my relationship with CARE as a Volunteer Advocate. In being paired one-on-one with an older adult for whom CARE was appointed as Legal Guardian, my role was to ensure that my ward was receiving optimal care in her nursing facility, provide consent to any any healthcare decisions, and, in a larger way, put myself in her shoes as a surrogate decision maker. My ward is a sassy 94-year-old woman with dementia and she is an absolute joy to spend time with. It has been the most fulfilling volunteer experience I ever had. When the position to direct the guardianship and volunteer programs came open, it felt like a natural way for me to contribute to an organization that I already felt such a strong connection to and to help others find a volunteer experience that helps them connect with their community.
What would you say to another young professional considering a nonprofit job?
Absolutely explore if it is the right area for you. Volunteer work is the easiest way to get a taste of the nonprofit world without the same level of commitment that a change in career paths may bring. Nonprofit work covers a huge spectrum of industries and I think that anyone’s talents can be put to use to benefit an organization that has a public service goal. If you’re passionate about helping the disenfranchised, you can make a career out of it.
If you could learn a brand new skill, what would it be?
I envy my neighbors’ lush gardens, verdant lawns and crops of fresh vegetables but my thumb is as black as it can get. Although I attend our neighborhood’s garden club meetings as an “aspirational gardener”, I don’t seem to have the hang of growing things myself.
If you were an inanimate object, what would you be and why?
If I were an inanimate object, I would be a can of soda. I sit very still and wait until my turn to POP! open. Then I explode with fizzy energy, decaffeinating, and hopefully motivating, those around me. When I’m empty, I can be recycled. There’s a metaphor in that somewhere, too.
What do you hope to accomplish that you haven’t yet?
My to-do list is a mile long but there is one thing that will help provide the optimal service to our clients and that is more volunteers. Our program is designed to match a volunteer with each client so that they can get to know them well and be a true advocate for their care. We have over 130 active cases and 58 of those people are unmatched. It is very challenging for our very small paid staff to be proactive about the needs of these folks and visit them regularly so my personal goal is to not only recruit and train more volunteers but to be creative about different ways that we can use volunteers to meet the needs of our clientele.
Share a little-known treasure of Indianapolis with us.
Downtown Indianapolis may seem like a rather large and obvious treasure, but I think many people avoid downtown because they don’t want to deal with parking or traffic. I love to walk through the Wednesday Farmers Market, grab lunch at City Market and walk around looking at all the unique architecture, eavesdropping on conversations of the thousands of people who live and work downtown. I love the historic details about downtown. My newest favorite fact is that the garage where I park each day was built as a theater in the late 1800s and by the 1920s had quite the reputation for the type of shows they put on! Don’t be afraid to come downtown, put a few quarters in the meter and explore the core of our beautiful city. A not-to-miss favorite are the views from any upper floor of the City-County Building.
Most important question: Cat person or dog person? Why?
This is a terrible question to ask! I have a tortoiseshell cat, Bailey. She is the light of my life and aside from lots of pets, tummy rubs and head scratches, takes care of herself. I love dogs but you have to be able to be at home to take them on walks and get them exercise. The days that I’m home before 8 PM are few and far between so my dog love has been relegated to greeting every pup that I meet on the street.
Want to support Meredith's work?
The Center for At-Risk Elders is always in need of dedicated volunteers to serve our vulnerable clients. A significant number of incapacitated adults have no family or friend who is appropriate to serve as guardian. CARE matches volunteers with unbefriended, incapacitated adults who need a guardian.
The opportunity is not suited for everyone; our clients come to us in some kind of crisis, such as abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, or hospitalization and most need nursing home placement. As a Volunteer Advocate, you work alongside CARE to make decisions regarding your client’s medical treatment, residential placement and end-of-life planning. CARE asks for a one-year commitment to your ward but the time spent is generally 8-10 hours per month. For more information, visit their website or email Meredith. If advocacy is not your thing, volunteer opportunities exist in the form of law clerkships, social work internships, service learning projects, fundraising and grant writing, office work and on their property team. Tell Meredith how she can use your skills!