Why I volunteer: The power of purpose

Tom Morgan

Editor’s note: As part of Xpress’ Spring Nonprofit Issue, we asked residents to send in accounts of their volunteer work with local nonprofits. See all 12 responses in this week’s print edition. 

Tom Morgan, board president of Project Dignity of WNC, discusses his role at the nonprofit and its mission within the community.

When and why did you begin volunteering for Project Dignity of WNC? 

Morgan: My wife, Barb Morgan, created Project Dignity in early 2017 in response to learning that period products — a critical part of monthly health care for women — could not be purchased using SNAP benefits. Barb’s passion for serving others and for giving back to her adopted community of Hendersonville energized her to gather some like-minded friends to seek resources and Project Dignity was launched.

Barb used every opportunity to teach about period poverty, to “talk to anyone over 3 feet tall.” I was part of the moving tide who loved and supported Barb and Project Dignity from the moment of its birth. In late 2011, Barb was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a life-ending disease that prevents healthy blood cells from doing their job. By 2017, she was receiving treatment at Pardee Cancer Center, and the trajectory of that disease eventually took her life in May 2021.

Yet the time between diagnosis and her passing was consumed with Barb’s passion to raise awareness of period poverty, build an organization to solicit and distribute products, and to raise significant funds from a loyal cadre of donors. Barb’s mantra as she was actively dying was “Just keep swimming,” from the movie Finding Nemo.

In September 2021, I took on the role of board president. I am imbued with Barb’s passion for finding ways to help others in our community and maintain the energy needed to keep the organization viable and growing. I am committed to her legacy as my Anam Cara, and someone who left the world a better place.

What do you wish you’d known prior to starting?

Other than a few nuances of running a nonprofit, my business career had provided me with leadership and fiscal management skills so that I felt comfortable in leading our group and representing Project Dignity.

What do you tell folks who are interested in volunteering but have yet to commit?

I remind them of our business model: raise awareness, raise funds, fill the need. We are all volunteers. As fiduciaries of our donors’ funding, we keep our nonprogram expenses to a minimum. We understand the power of purpose. I love to use a quote from Jane Goodall: “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”


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