Volunteer Spotlight: Frank Vaia

Volunteers play a critical role in the success of our organization. This month, we are excited to feature one of our most steadfast, dedicated and genuinely kind volunteers, Frank Vaia.

When asked what his favorite volunteer role has been, Frank said, “Co-chairing Celebrity Servers Night with wonderful partners and the YWRC staff support. We clicked.”

Frank has been volunteering with the YWRC through our Celebrity Servers Night event for the last seven years. The first three years of his involvement he volunteered a Celebrity Server. For the past four years, he has been spearheading the efforts as a co-chair. Being a co-chair of our Celebrity Servers Night is no small feat. As co-chair, Frank helped to get commitments from an average of 60 community members to participate as Servers each year. He encouraged them to engage their friends and family in new, creative ways through supporting the event.

Frank dressed as “Laurel” of “Laurel and Hardy” as a Celebrity Server in 2016.

In 2017, Frank, and his fellow co-chair Beth Coonan, led the charge to break the event’s fundraising record, reaching $72,693.55! In addition to encouraging fundraising, Frank also shares his genuine passion for our mission with all of the Servers and 600+ annual guests. An aspect we appreciate the most about Frank is how dedicated he has been to his roles. He truly understands the impact community members can have for non-profits and easily spreads his excitement to others.

Without fail, Frank is always willing to go the extra mile, and then some, to help us provide for local girls and young women – all with a smile on his face and twinkle in his eye. During the event, Frank always makes sure to stop by every table to welcome and thank guests. His integrity, thoughtfulness and sense of humor are evident to all who interact with him.

We were especially grateful to Frank, and fellow co-chair Diane Rasmussen, during our 2020 Celebrity Servers Night event. With challenges presented by COVID-19, Frank and Diane worked diligently to flip the event to a virtual evening. This event is centered gathering together, and they both worked so hard to make sure we still had our community at the center of the event. Never once did they waiver, persevering with an ever-growing dedication to our mission and participants.

Frank and fellow co-chair Diane Rasmussen at meal pick-up for the virtual 2020 Celebrity Servers Night.

Overall, as a Server (often alongside Tim Hickman) and a co-chair (with Beth and Diane), Frank has helped raise $220,809.55 for the YWRC! And just as important, he has shared his passion for our work with countless community members who have then become part of our family.

When asked how he got involved with Celebrity Servers night, Frank responded:

“I think I flirted with idea of being a Celebrity Server after the then- current Co- Chairs of the event, who are friends of mine, told me about the event. I had just retired from a development/fundraising event position at the AIDS Project of Central Iowa and decided that as a CS-er, I could support the YWRC without directly reaching out to donors and asking for donations. My first year I dressed as an androgynous nun with mixed reactions. I am sure I respected the development work Erin Moran did at the Des Moines Art Center and knew she would be as passionate at the YWRC so I jumped aboard (as a co-chair). Time flies, as they say, especially when you’re having fun.”

After consistently going above and beyond in his volunteer roles, we asked Frank to share what has kept him motivated throughout these past seven years.

“Ya’ know, I could fill an entire page with an answer. And I’m getting a lump in my throat thinking about the importance and methodology of what the YWRC provides. Yes, there are tangible offerings like food, clothing, diapers, personal hygiene products. And there are how-to age and situation appropriate lessons. For me, the gifts the YWRC presents to every girl who walks through their doors is self-respect and the opportunity to overcome whatever stuff is thrown at them…and succeed. I am proud to be associated with such a vital organization.”

Some of Frank’s favorite memories with us are having met participants, achieving a record-setting Celebrity Servers Night fundraising amount, and successfully planning/completing the shift to a virtual 2020 Celebrity Servers Night event.

In addition to donating his time and skills with us, Frank has worked with numerous other organizations throughout the community.

“In the past I’ve worked with EveryStep, the Des Moines Art Center, The AIDS Project of Central Iowa (before being hired), Habitat for Humanity, and helped fill sand bags during the Des Moines1993 flood.”

Growing up, Frank was inspired by his mom, third grade teacher Mrs. Jones and seventh grade teacher Mrs. Ickis. Today, his role models are his children and grandchildren. His advice to youth is to “love yourself and be who you are.”

When we asked Frank why he thinks volunteering is important, he had a simple, strong answer for us: “It’s the right thing to do.”

Many folks throughout our community are familiar with Frank, but he wonders if you can identify the two truths and one lie from these three statements:

  1. “When I do something that I feel goes outside of following my integrity, I have hot flashes.
  2. At some point during my life I wanted to be a sailor because I loved the uniforms.
  3. I’ve sold shoes to Mikhail Baryshnikov.”

Whether his shoe sale game included Baryshnikov, he aspired to sport sailor uniforms, or has integrity-produced hot flashes, we are so glad to have Frank as part of our team. His constant encouragement, positive attitude and driven work ethic are an inspiration.

Thank you, Frank, for truly making a significant impact throughout our community.