Everyday Heroes: Turning a Calling Into a Career

Cary, NC — When talking about selfless acts of service in Cary, the conversation has to include Dorcas Ministries and by extension, the organization’s staff and volunteers.

Continuing our series on Everyday Heroes in Cary.

Since its creation 52 years ago, Dorcas Ministries has provided compassionate assistance to area residents, empowering them to become stable and self-sufficient. This is made possible through the work of devoted staff members like Ellen Frazier.

Frazier, the non-profit’s Marketing and Volunteer Manager, has an extensive list of responsibilities that make it possible for the organization to grow and to stay connected with the community, even in the face of roadblocks in a pandemic.

Service-Driven from Day One

Growing up as a Cary native, Frazier and her sister were raised by a Methodist minister and a public school teacher.

“Our parents instilled in us from a very young age that giving back is just part of what you do to be helpful and kind to other people,” said Frazier.

Frazier earned her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Meredith College in 2011 and her Master’s in Human Services from Wake Forest in 2019. It was a social work class at Meredith that brought her to apply for an internship with Dorcas her senior year.

Loving the organization’s culture and mission made it an easy decision to apply when a new job was open  in 2012 for a Volunteer Coordinator. Now she is one of about 20-25 full-time staffers who work alongside 600 local volunteers.

A pre-COVID-19 group photo showcases a portion of the organization’s 600 volunteers

Going Beyond the Job Description

If you talk with any of Frazier’s coworkers or volunteers, they will tell you that Ellen Frazier is someone who goes above and beyond what is asked of her. In fact, her scope and job title shifted over the years to include marketing, social media, website management and many other tasks.

According to Executive Director, Howard Manning, going beyond the job description is common for many who work and live up to their motto of “Christian Community in Action.”

“For Ellen, like most of the rest of the staff at Dorcas, it’s a job but it’s also a calling,” said Manning.

Manning says the payback the organization has gotten from Frazier’s marketing, volunteer management and other talents has been priceless.

Husband and wife, Glenn and Susan Blackley have served as board members and volunteers for over 20 years. When first meeting Frazier, they remember her being approachable and eager to learn.

“For her to coordinate all of us, get everyone to work on the same page all while keeping up the membership is a monumental task. She has done a remarkable job,” said Susan. “She’s Dorcas’ go-to person,” added Glenn.

Frazier, Dorcas Staff Change Gears in Pandemic

The Dorcas Thrift Shop closed its doors on March 17 and the donation drop-off was closed shortly after. Volunteer applications were paused and Frazier was a big part of paving a new way forward all while shifting to working from home. Other staffers stayed in-office to keep the financial and client services active.

“Everybody has had to step up during this time to adjust, to make new plans and to figure out next steps,” said Frazier.

“Having to make all these changes and adjustments has actually brought the Dorcas team even closer. It allowed us to work with each other in different ways and capacities.”

While slowing down in-person interactions, Frazier’s volunteer management portion of her job shrunk while the communications portion hit full throttle. She helped to create an online application for those needing services and kept every volunteer, staff member, board member and community member informed every step of the way.

“Her contributions in the communications arena were essential and she did a stand-up job in making sure everything got communicated correctly,” said Howard.

Provisions are in place to keep staff and customers safe at the Dorcas Ministries thrift store including one-way shopping and a 3-day quarantine on all items donated.

Overwhelming Community Support

Even in a time where some are out of work, kids are home and utility bills are rising with more use, donations at Dorcas have been overwhelmingly higher.

“As much as the world is hurting and people are struggling in the community, we are very grateful that many people have still found the capacity to donate in some way,” said Frazier.

Several individuals and businesses got creative to make more donations possible.

One person decided to sell plants right out of their yard and raised around $1,000. Another person took it upon themselves to have a walkathon and raised around $800. Cary EMTs hosted a food drive and Great Harvest Bread created a buy a loaf, donate a loaf program for the Dorcas food pantry.

To put these numbers in perspective, $75 keeps a client’s water on, $250 can cover a family’s electric costs, $500 can feed a family for a month and $1,000 is an average month’s rent.

Rewarding Work & A Joyful Team

Ellen Frazier, the Marketing and Volunteer Manager of Dorcas Ministries.

In speaking with Frazier, her two favorite topics seemed to be the volunteers and her coworkers.

“It is such a joy to get to work with this group of people. We all come from such different backgrounds and different walks of life and have different perspectives while makes us work so well together as a team,” said Frazier.

As for the volunteers, Frazier is happy to see them slowly returning with restrictions in place.

“We have volunteers ranging from 11 to 97 years old and one of my favorite things to do is to sit down with a volunteer and have them tell me a story,” said Frazier.

It is because of these stories that Frazier says she goes home every day knowing her work directly impacted someone’s life for the better.

“A couple of people that were at that very first meeting in 1968 still actively volunteer today in 2020. Getting to learn from them and hearing about the original vision for Dorcas Ministries is amazing,” said Frazier.

A big part of her job is caring for the volunteers who, in turn, go out and take care of the community. As a young professional with a compassionate soul, Manning has no doubts that she has a bright future ahead.

“I’ve always been taught that the work a person does speaks for itself. I think if people view Ellen’s work through the marketing activities and the website and all the communication on behalf of Dorcas, that speaks for her,” said Manning.

Story by Ashley Kairis. Group volunteer photo courtesy of Dorcas Ministries, others by Hal Goodtree.

Everyday Heroes on CaryCitizen is sponsored by Publix.

1 reply
  1. Dot
    Dot says:

    Ellen is amazing in the way she keeps up with all the volunteers and all the craziness that sometimes happens, she is patience and answers emails so quickly and stays calm and I don’t know she does it. So glad for her!

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