By Heather Bennett
Zig Ziglar said, “Success is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” and Sharing Hands Network’s (SHN’s) steady growth over the last several years prepared them to answer the call to help with relief efforts following Hurricane Michael. I had the pleasure of speaking with SHN’s founder Esther Lynn Hemphill recently and want to share with you the bigger picture of what Sharing Hands Network is doing, along with Esther’s vision for volunteer engagement in our communities.
Esther holds an MBA from Emory Goizueta Business School. Working as a management consultant for 30 years, she traveled the globe leading large-scale strategy and technology programs for numerous Fortune 500 companies including aerospace and manufacturing corporations, government and military departments, and prestigious universities. “I have always been a visionary, a solutioning and idea person, and a facilitator. It’s in my DNA,” said Esther. “I enjoy bringing ideas to fruition, transforming chaos into order, and encouraging others to pursue their dreams.”
Even with her impressive resume, she found herself wanting more and felt God was calling her to use her consulting skills for a higher purpose beyond helping for-profit organizations sell more products and cut costs. “I felt God was saying, ‘It’s time for a new season. I’ve trained you for 30 years, and now we’re going to do a new thing.’ I felt I was being given a divine assignment to help strengthen communities both locally and internationally.” Esther’s skills, once used for profit purposes, would now be used for helping others, and for healing and transforming lives. “When God puts a big assignment on your heart like that, it keeps you awake at night, and Sharing Hands Network was born from that calling.”
Esther founded Sharing Hands Network in 2012 and initially focused on helping individuals in need find resources and support in the multi-county region along the Emerald Coast. In 2013, Esther stepped away from Fortune 500 consulting and took on a founding role at the USAF-AFRL’s Doolittle Institute using her skills towards applied innovation and technology transfer, along with strengthening small businesses and mentoring adult and youth entrepreneurs. By 2015, SHN was growing and became a full- time occupation for Esther.
Engaging the community for positive impact is a high priority for Sharing Hands Network. SHN’s CommunitySTRONG outreach program works to support families and youth, veterans and first responders, along with food insecure and homeless. “In addition to outreach work, we also have our digital platform (SHN.co) that’s made available for the community to use. Everything we do is to make our community stronger,” said Esther.
The devastation left by Hurricane Michael accelerated the expansion of regional use of SHN’s capabilities and services. Esther has been appointed as a member of the Executive Committee for the newly formed “Bay County Long Term Disaster Recovery Organization (LTDRO)” and is leading Volunteer Engagement to address the unmet needs of disaster survivors. SHN’s digital platform (SHN.co) was tailored for Hurricane Michael relief efforts and is being utilized by various responders, including collection/distribution facilities and FEMA/FDEM personnel.
Needs will shift as recovery efforts progress, and SHN wants to meet those needs in ways that maximize precious and limited resources. To that end, Esther is collaborating with the Hurricane Harvey LTDRO in Houston, along with LTDROs in other cities that have experienced large-scale disasters. She knows that leveraging lessons learned by others will strengthen our local recovery efforts.
Community engagement is critical to achieving SHN’s mission of “Healthy & Happy Families, Strong & Engaged Communities,” Esther said, “We do what we’re doing, because each person in the community matters, and each individual has a contribution that is uniquely theirs to make. It’s incredibly important to acknowledge that what we’re all part of is bigger than the part we each play.”
If you would like to learn more about Sharing Hands Network and opportunities for involvement in your community, visit http://SHN.co for information.