Victoria shatters stereotypes by crunching data

volunteer work helps her find the story behind the numbers

Victoria Sattler is a transplant from Southern California. But her husband, David, grew up here in Spokane. So, whenever they drive someplace together, David points out different local landmarks for her.

Each and every time they drive through downtown on Second Avenue, David slows the car as they cross Howard. He never fails to proudly show her Crosswalk teen shelter on the left—where, almost two decades ago, he started his career helping at risk youth as an evening shift supervisor. David now works for Juvenile Court Services.

Victoria, on the other hand, began her career working for luxury hotels. Her job was to gather and analyze information and design tools and trainings to improve the way things were done.

After 15 years increasing efficiency and solving business challenges at hotels and resorts all around the world, she made the move to a new career—stay at home mom.

Victoria’s life now happily revolves around a very active toddler. Her days are a busy whirl of preschool, ballet classes and play dates. But watching her husband’s enthusiasm for his work reminded rekindled an old desire to find meaningful volunteer work.

“I love the opportunity to be a stay home mom,” says Victoria. “But also miss being out in the workforce. Seeing how my husband is so passionate about what he does, I wanted to experience that for myself.  His work with Juvenile Court is truly a worthwhile cause and I see how it impacts the community.”

“I always knew I wanted to go back to volunteering when my daughter was old enough and I was lucky enough to have a supportive family and the help of my mother-in-law to watch my daughter. I was determined to carve out time to do volunteer work.”

Once their daughter turned three, Victoria started exploring her options, looking for a place to contribute her expertise in working with databases and reporting.

“Volunteers of America was always top of mind, especially with my husband’s history with Crosswalk,” explains Victoria. But things really came into focus when Volunteers of America started popping up everywhere she turned.

“It almost became like the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. One way or another, I kept meeting all these people who were somehow connected to VOA.  I met a mom at preschool who is the director of Crosswalk North Idaho. I asked her about the programs at VOA and she reinforced my impressions about the organization.  Then I found out another preschool mom worked as an intern at Alexandria’s House. She is friends with the director of Hope House, who is married to my husband’s former supervisor at Juvenile Court!”

Whether it was a message from the cosmos or just the result of Spokane being a small town, the connections got Victoria’s attention. She visited and found that what she was reading seemed like a perfect fit.

It was a cold Friday in February 2014 when Victoria made her first visit to Volunteers of America to meet with development director, Kay Murano about volunteering. As she climbed out of the car she was blasted with bitterly cold wind and a wave of doubt.

"I was apprehensive at first not knowing what to expect," recalls Victoria. "The administrative office was upstairs from the Crosswalk teen shelter and I was not exactly sure if it was a safe area. But once I went inside I was greeted by friendly faces and enthusiastic staff. I immediately felt more at ease."

Victoria and Kay discussed the options and quickly agreed that Victoria's time and expertise could best be used spending a few hours once a week optimizing VOA's data. She agreed to go to work removing duplicates and cleaning up other errors in VOA’s donor database as well helping individual programs—starting with Crosswalk—to enter services provided into a client database. Essential work for helping keep costs down, communicate with donors  effectively and in getting an overall picture of the success of Volunteers of America programs—a key both in acquiring funding and in being accountable to donors.

“The meeting was an eye-opener,” says Victoria. “Learning about the needs and opportunities with the new database system and the importance of statistical data especially with fund development.”

“Cleaning up inconsistencies in our donor records,” adds Murano, “allows us to save postage and reduce printing costs by avoiding sending mail to people multiple times. It also lets us communicate with our supporters more effectively. The other part of the work—capturing data about who our programs serve and what exactly they provide—gives us a clearer overall picture of the success of our work.”

She began volunteering the following week and found her initial impressions immediately shattered.

"Once I got started it was almost embarrassing to admit that I did not feel as safe about the area and the rough-looking teens milling about," says Victoria. "Seeing firsthand what at-risk youth go through, the struggles and challenges they face really showed me how wrong my first impressions were."

"But what was really amazing was that I was witnessing firsthand real-world compassion behind the services I was seeing on paper as I assisted with the Crosswalk database."

"There is a story to tell behind the data," says Victoria. "And to be able to translate it to show the success of the programs and the real help that they provide is really important. For me, realizing in such a personal way that the challenges some people face in society are --not just something you read or see on TV. This experience has made me more aware. I'd like my volunteer work to contribute to sharing that awareness with other volunteers, donors and other funders."

"My initial feeling of heartbreak for these youths was immediately replaced by hope and gratitude.  Hope in seeing these youths act like regular teenagers, with their big smiles and positive attitude, while in a safe place.  Gratitude for the program staff and volunteers who foster such a nurturing and loving environment. I can finally understand why my husband, along with all the countless workers and volunteers that deal with at-risk youth and families in crisis, are so passionate about their jobs.  These people are driven by pure satisfaction of having made a positive impact in someone else’s life.  Somehow I am beginning to see how it is truly their legacy. It feels great knowing I am making some kind of difference too."

When she completes her work with the Crosswalk and donor databases, Victoria looks forward to helping strengthen and clarify the data at each of Volunteers of America's programs.