Terry Hawkings is looking out for Winona.
A Winona resident for nearly 20 years, Hawkings, 52, has spent the better part of her time volunteering for Winona events, including the Great River Shakespeare Festival and Merchants Bank’s annual 10 Days of Giving food drive during the holiday season.
The Merchants employee volunteers in the community because she wants to help make Winona an appealing travel destination, she said. Like her fellow Volunteer of the Month nominees, she simply found things in the community she was passionate about and stepped up to donate her time.
“If it’s good for Winona, then it’s good for my employer and it’s good for me,” Hawkings said.
Hawkings, who journeyed to Winona from California 20 years ago, calls Merchants her catalyst to volunteerism. It’s the bank’s core values that prompted Hawkings to get involved in the community ever since she got here, she said.
Hawkings generally lends her time as a coordinator or board member, but also looks for ways to step into one-time events and help with whatever’s needed, like at Trinona or Live at the Levee. It doesn’t matter where in an organization you serve, she said — only that you do.
“You don’t have to take on a leadership role to be useful,” Hawkings said. “Just participate.”
For Shakespeare, Hawkings works as a volunteer coordinator. She also served as the co-chair for the 10 Days of Giving event last year when it celebrated its 25th anniversary. She’s the president-elect of Winona’s Exchange Club and is the treasurer of the Live at the Levee committee — among other initiatives.
So, why does she take on all the extra commitments?
“Just to feel like I belong,” Hawkings said. “Walking down the street and knowing people. But I’m passionate about the economic value, specifically for GRSF.”
Hawkings believes Winona can be a template for a small-town tourist destination, and is headed in the right direction. Her focus now is helping to revitalize downtown.
“If we can improve our downtown, we can improve as a destination,” Hawkings said.
She wants to help groom the area to be the hub for the art enthusiast, the outdoorsy-type and those just passing through. Hawkings isn’t the first one to notice Winona’s need for changes downtown. With programs such as the Winona Main Street Program, the community is taking steps to revitalize the area.
That, and Live at the Levee, which has held multiple community music and arts events downtown over the last year.
“I meet so many different people,” Hawkings said. “We reach a different population of people in Winona.”
Even with a bustling schedule, Hawkings doesn’t plan to slow down. She’ll often work with her husband, but she admitted he’s one of the doers while she’s a planner.
“We have this little joke that I’m the volunteer and he’s the volun-told,” Hawkings said with a laugh.
Story by Andrew Sroka. Reprinted with permission from Winona Daily News.