MOUNT STERLING, Ill. -- As president of the United Way of Brown County, Tricia Baker is able to give back to the community in which she has always lived.
Born and reared in Timewell, Baker considered moving away when she was younger, but as the years went by, she realized there was nowhere else she wanted to live. At 17, she got her foot in the door at Dot Foods with a part-time job in transportation. That first job led to six years as a customer service representative, two years as a senior customer service representative, and she has now served as a customer service team leader for over a year.
"I love the customer service side of the business," she said. "It's very fulfilling, but to say it's a challenge is an understatement."
Her role at Dot Foods also led to her position with United Way. After serving on a United Way committee through Dot Foods for a couple years, she joined the service organization. She was nominated to serve as president after two years as a board member.
"It really opened my eyes to see how much our community comes together," she said. "It was a challenge, but it has worked out really well."
One of the recipient organizations of the United Way's charitable endeavors is the little league in which Baker once played and her son, Tanner, now plays.
"There is no other place I want to be," she said. "This is the only place I want to raise my family."
Family: Husband Steve and son Tanner
Education: Brown County High School/GED
How are you involved in your community? I have served on the United Way of Brown County board for the last 3 1/2 years and have held the president role for the last 1 1/2 years. Our board is completely volunteer-based.
What is your job, what do you do and what do you like best about it? Dot Foods, Inc., Customer Service team leader. I manage nine customer service representatives for the East Region. What I love the most, is never knowing what the day will bring. Every day is a new challenge to hurdle.
What is a typical workweek like? A typical day always includes working with my team on problems or issues and usually involves some problem-solving. While challenging at times, I do enjoy the customer service side of my job and have dealt with some very interesting customers from across the country. My current position allows me to participate in various planning meetings and in interviewing potential job candidates. My lunch hours usually include running errands or having meetings for the United Way.
What was your first job, and what do you remember about it? My first job was working in a convenience store. What I remember most were all the different types of people I met that were outside my circle of family and friends. It taught me how to deal with the public and the importance of good customer service.
How do you balance everything? There are many days when I don't feel like I do. I have been accused of having OCD, because I like things neat and orderly and planned ahead. My husband and son are making me see that family trumps all, and doing things together matters a lot more than whether the house is a little dusty or not.
Which person has influenced you the most and why? My mother. She has always taught me to be very independent. If you want something, fight for it and never be afraid of a challenge. She pushes me to be a better person every day.
Have you ever failed at something? (Care to give details? How did you recover?) I had some health issues near the end of my senior year and was not able to finish the year. I was disappointed that I was not able to graduate with my fellow classmates. I got myself healthy and happy, got my GED, and have worked hard every day to do a good job at whatever I do.
What does success mean to you? Knowing at the end of the day I have done the best that I can do, whether for my family, work or the community.
What was your proudest professional moment? When I made the decision to step out of my comfort zone and step into the role of president for United Way of Brown County. To say I was scared was an understatement.
What is your favorite stress buster/leisure time diversion? Spending time with my family at our family farm whether it be fishing or sitting around a fire.
What is the biggest need in your community? That is tough to pin down. Being involved with the United Way allows us to see the needs of multiple organizations serving a broad range of families across our county. Our goal is to do our best to help raise the funds to support those many activities.
What gives you reason for optimism in your community? We are a small town with small-town values. We know our neighbors and will rally together when someone has a need. Working with the United Way and those we serve demonstrates to me that our community has a strong foundation. It is the kind of community I am happy to live and raise a family in.
If you could go back in time and give advice to yourself when you were in high school, what would it be? That life is way too short to sweat the small things. High school is just another stepping stone in world we call life.
If you could add a few more hours to the day, how would you spend them? With my family. Any working wife/mother knows there aren't enough hours in the evenings or weekend to spend with your family.
Do you live by any mantra or saying? No.