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Nancy Matthews: Monrovia's One-Woman Volunteer Squad

There are few causes in town that Matthews doesn't support through her many professional and volunteer activities.

In her work and volunteer activities, Nancy Matthews acts on her vision to create community.

Her volunteer work was recently featured in a when she planned a group clean up to lend assistance to a neighbor whose yard was overgrown with weeds. It’s not the first time Matthews has acted to help out others.

Matthews also donates platelets at the Blood Donor Center every two weeks. Although it is a time-consuming process that takes about two hours, Matthews--who is in her seventh year of teaching classes in recreation at Cal State Long Beach--uses that time to grade papers.

"We can multitask and also do this thing that literally saves lives," she said.

Matthews has also volunteered as a tutor in the literacy program at , where she currently teaches a conversation class for English Language Learners.

"People are not only learning, but they’re sharing their knowledge as they gain a better understanding of how countries work. It may be about learning, but it’s also doing it through sharing your own culture," Matthews said.

One of their classes focused on the spirit of volunteerism, in which they talked about how people of all different backgrounds can have a useful place in the community. Matthews has also taken students to the to find volunteer opportunities, and many of the students are now volunteering.

"Their interest was really piqued," she said. "They feel good about doing something together with other people."

Matthews holds degrees in Women’s Studies and Psychology from Scripps College and a Master’s in Higher Education Administration from UCLA. She has worked in human services and recreation positions for places like Caltech, Cal State L.A., the city of San Marino and the city of Claremont. Her current endeavor, NLM Consulting, focuses on quality of life programs.

Safe Zone Ally Program

"I really like the diversity of the field and the fact that I get to be really project-oriented as a consultant," Matthews said.

In addition to teaching recreation classes at Cal State Long Beach, Matthews serves on legislative committees for the California Park and Recreation Society and the California Faculty Association.

This summer, Matthews volunteered to help create the "Safe Zone Ally Program," at Cal State Long Beach. The pilot program was initially offered as a four-hour training session for 30 faculty and staff to raise awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues and ended up attracting 40 people.

"Now we’ll be presenting that program each semester on campus," she said. "We can maybe celebrate differences as opposed to being paralyzed or frightened by them."

Matthews has also worked with Liz Levitt, a friend from her alma mater, Scripps College, to put together free and open concerts at the Claremont Colleges.

"There’s a beauty in things not costing. If you can remove that barrier and just enjoy music together, that’s really fun," Matthews said.

Matthews is a past president of the Foothill Community Democrats and is still involved in many of their activities.

"I think it’s healthy as a community to challenge each other as long as it’s in a spirit to motivate each other to change for the better," she said.

Matthews is also involved in . She has picked fruit from friends’ trees and clipped rosemary from her yard for the exchange. She has also marketed by putting together postcards and passing them out to advertise the monthly gathering in .

"It’s a beautiful thing, being so connected to the Earth, environment, community. You have people playing games, enjoying your kids--it’s such a nice thing! And it’s so very easy," she said.

She thinks one of the reasons the produce exchange has been so successful is because of the relaxed style in which it has been run by founder Heather Maluso and others, leading people to find ways they can fit in and get involved.

"Sometimes there’s real health in having spaces where people can help out. There’s a nice balance that can be achieved there," Matthews said.

"I find that my sense of happiness and life satisfaction is really positively affected by these projects," she added. "It makes me feel connected to something bigger."

Jen Havens September 19, 2011 at 05:29 PM
No doubt about it, Nancy is a beautiful person and I am very grateful she lives in my town! Thanks, Nancy, for making a difference everyday :-)
Lynda Noell September 19, 2011 at 08:16 PM
... I think you left out that in her "spare" time, she works out at the gym X-number of days per week! And still makes time for family and friends. Nancy, I hope you remember us, your humble neighbors as you get more and more famous! *wink*
Nicoline Conway September 20, 2011 at 01:47 AM
I feel blessed to call Nancy a friend. She truly walks the walk. No better shining example than Nancy.
Kristin September 20, 2011 at 02:51 AM
Nancy is an amazing person. She shows what it's really like to be part of the community. Thank you Nancy for all you do!
Lorraine grindstaff September 20, 2011 at 03:05 AM
Thank you for this in depth look at Nancy. It is inspiring to learn about those who make such positive contributions to their communities. We are fortunate that there are millions of individuals in this Nation who, like Nancy, devote time to making their communities, our Nation and this Planet better places to live and Monrovia is lucky to have many, many persons who, like Nancy, give unselfishly of their time, effort and imagination. I look forward to reading stories about other persons who are making a difference in the community because those stories are so uplifting.
punkster September 20, 2011 at 02:16 PM
I totally agree and having sat in on a couple of Nancy's Conversation Classes at the Library with my Literacy student, I am so impressed with her skills and teaching abilities. The Community is blessed to have her around! Thanks Nancy
Susan September 20, 2011 at 05:23 PM
You are awesome Nancy!! Thanks for all you do to make Monrovia better.
Deb Sparks September 20, 2011 at 08:20 PM
As the phenomenal Sir Paul McCartney would say, Nancy is "Here, There and Everywhere" working her magic on Monrovia. Let's all count our blessings! Thank you, Nancy ;) Deb Sparks
Lynda Noell September 22, 2011 at 02:34 PM
Based on an article in LinkedIn this week, it appears that Nancy may live forever! Thanks for setting the Example, Nancy! http://www.linkedin.com/share?viewLink=&sid=s591741121&url=http%3A%2F%2Flnkd.in%2Fys7_3a&urlhash=pfA_&uid=5521299777687400448&trk=EML_nus_share-F22&ut=21waayoLr3SAU1

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