Sara Ballard, executive director of the Volunteer Center of Lewis, Mason and Thurston Counties, died Tuesday morning at Providence Saint Peter Hospital in Olympia. She was 36.
Ballard was hospitalized over the weekend after suffering a stroke caused by a blood clot in her lung.
“She was an amazing, spirited and very committed individual,” said Paul Knox, executive director of the United Way of Thurston County. “It’s very sad.”
Ballard joined the Volunteer Center in March 2008. Before that, she served as the senior manager at the Volunteer Center at United Way of Snohomish County in Everett.
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“She brought energy and enthusiasm and some strong organizational skills, particularly around technology,” said Robert Coit, executive director of the Thurston County Food Bank.
“She really cared about what she was doing, and it showed in her work.”
Ballard grew up in Michigan and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and economics from Alma College there. She was a certified volunteer administrator, a graduate of the Michigan Nonprofit Association Emerging Leader course and a 2009 graduate of Leadership Thurston County.
“Sara was a passionate and enthusiastic advocate for people from all walks of life,” said Russ Carstensen, board president of the Volunteer Center of Lewis, Mason and Thurston Counties. “She believed that by working together we can make our communities a better place.”
For Ballard, volunteering and creating opportunities for people to serve in the community wasn’t just a day job. It was something she was passionate about, said Wendy Tanner, chief operating officer of Community Youth Services.
“I think she saw the changes that it made – not just the people the volunteers were serving, but the volunteers themselves,” Tanner said.
Ballard was the president of the statewide Volunteer Centers of Washington. She also was part of the Junior League of Olympia and an informal coaching group for female leaders in South Sound.
“She touched the lives of so many people, especially in the nonprofit world,” said Lee Wojnar, vice president of marketing at O Bee Credit Union and co-chairman of the Thurston County Asset Building Coalition. “She thought of things that were out of the box.”
For example, he said, Ballard helped establish the Economic Survival Fair, which brought many resources such as financial coaching and job assistance under one roof for people who were out of work or hit by the bad economy.
Ballard is survived by her parents, Jim and Nancy of Williamston, Mich.
The family has asked that memorial gifts go to the Volunteer Center. In addition, cards can be mailed to Jim and Nancy Ballard, c/o Volunteer Center of Lewis, Mason and Thurston Counties, 317 Fourth Ave. E., Suite 340, Olympia, WA 98501.
A memorial service is scheduled for 3 p.m. March 31 at The Salvation Army, 1505 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia.
Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 firstname.lastname@example.org