GO GIVER: Getting to know Sarah Sallas-Herring

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

Q. You are a longtime volunteer for Pine Castle. Please introduce us to this organization.
A. Pine Castle, an agency established in 1952, serves and enriches the lives of people with developmental or acquired disabilities by providing opportunities to learn, work and live in the community. A comprehensive schedule of workshops teach vocational and life skills; there is a senior program and recreation including physical, social and creative self-expression activities. The adult education program, a longtime collaboration with FSCJ, teaches participants to develop or improve academic skills. They help approximately 400 individuals each day in the Jacksonville area to achieve their potential, attain their highest level of self-sufficiency, improve quality of life and enjoy meaningful inclusion in the community. Pine Castle also developed a state-approved comprehensive training program for its staff that is available to care providers through a series of four different low-cost classes.

Q. Pine Castle Executive Director Jon May said that you are a dedicated volunteer who has made a big impact on the charity through strong leadership over the past seven years…how did you become involved?
A. I personally learned of Pine Castle’s programs through Leadership Jacksonville, through my stepson, Brock Herring, who is a participant there, and through a friend who was a volunteer on their board. My stepdaughter, Marcie Doherty, happens to be a special education teacher at Sable Palm Elementary, so I am very aware of the needs of these individuals.
Q. As a 32-year managed care professional with Baptist Medical Center, then the merged Baptist/St. Vincent’s, and now with St. Vincent’s Healthcare, how did you find that volunteer work with Pine Castle combined your personal and professional beliefs?
A. Volunteer work for Pine Castle allows me to combine both my personal and professional concerns in a deeply fulfilling way. St. Vincent’s mission is to care for the poor and vulnerable, just as Pine Castle serves those in our community who are the most vulnerable and especially need our help. Their workshops help adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities, including autism, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and traumatic brain injuries.

Q. What are your volunteer activities with Pine Castle?
A. I joined the board in 2007 and served as president for two of those years. My focus was board governance including an examination of criteria for the board, working to make intangible things measurable and gaining a deeper understanding of where the organization was at any given moment so we could determine what improvements were needed. I worked to get the right people in the right positions, achieve a further reach into the community and improve the long-term financial stability of the organization. I believe any successful organization must have vision. I’m a great believer in James C. Collins’ 2001 best-seller Good to Great, which summarized five years of research to examine how some companies transition from very good to great while others fail.

Q. Why is your drive to make the public more aware of Pine Castle so critical?
A. The state has removed so much funding from these agencies it is critical that the public know that these individuals must have our help to be able to continue to learn and independently function within our community. Many can work in jobs such as bagging groceries at Publix, if they are given the opportunity to learn basic vocational and social skills. Workshops that teach these skills make such a difference in the lives of these individuals and enable them to live more independently. As a society, we do not want to go back to the past when people with intellectual or developmental disabilities were institutionalized. We must collectively support organizations such as Pine Castle. For more information, go to their website, pinecastle.org or call (904) 733-2650.

Q. What other organizations do you support?
A. My husband Burtran Herring and I support the American Heart Association, the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund, United Way, Angelwood and Lakewood United Methodist Church where we are members.

Q. Any thoughts for readers interested in volunteering?
A. I live my life by the concept of paying it forward, to help as many people as I can while I can. I believe that kind of caring and goodness will come back to us. I also believe that God has a plan for each person, but it requires patience. I prayed about something for 10 years and those prayers were just recently answered.

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