October Volunteer of the Month: David Ross
After 15+ years with New American Pathways, David Ross (left) still enjoys the little things in volunteering – like showing up to a day of voter registration wearing the same shirt as volunteers from two of our partner agencies. Pictured with: Sam Aguilar of GALEO and Lyndon Waller of CPAGA.
David Ross has been with New American Pathways since the beginning – literally.
A founding member of the advisory council of the refugee ministry arm of the Christian Council of Metropolitan Atlanta, David was one of seven board members present when that ministry first set out to become its own standalone organization on November 7, 2002. The organization, then known as RRISA, would become New American Pathways in October 2014 after a merger with Refugee Family Services (RFS).
In those 15 plus years, David has had the opportunity to hold many volunteer roles with the organization, from multiple years on the Board of Directors to founding the first Advisory Council and even serving as an interim Executive Director for a short time. But it is the early days of “all hands on deck” that he remembers most fondly.
“Meeting folks at the airport and setting up apartments – getting furniture donations from all over town a few times per year…we all pitched in,” David remembers of the time when the organization was so small that volunteers borrowed friends’ pickup trucks to haul donated furniture.
David is proud that in his time with the organization he’s seen an “explosion” in the “depth and breadth of services” New American Pathways offers, and that the “standing in the community” has grown with it.
Now David is spearheading a new effort to extend services for clients.
After working to register voters in the 2008 and 2012 primaries, David wanted to bring his passions for new Americans and for registering voters together, and he saw a role for New American Pathways.
“It’s like picking a family up at the airport – it’s a powerful experience,” David says about voter registration work. “When they are registering to vote, they are so excited; they want to vote, to be a good citizen, to be involved in their community.”
During the RRISA/RFS merger, David helped to plan new voter registration and civic engagement services that have led to partnerships between New American Pathways and multiple civic-minded groups in Georgia – and helped to register over 3,500 new Americans to vote at naturalization ceremonies in Atlanta. In the year and a half since the project began, David has been proud of its “tremendous” growth. From working naturalization ceremonies to partnering with the City of Atlanta to hold a Welcoming Ceremony and voter drive in City Hall – David has been there.
David has worked closely with Communications and Policy Coordinator Stephanie Ali to develop services and recruit volunteers. A highlight for him was being present at Stephanie’s husband’s naturalization ceremony and registering him to vote.
David feels a personal connection to every person he registers to vote. He knows they’ll go on to make their community better, if just by their involvement in it.
“Now, I know what it is like for these people at the airport; we can see what their life will be like in five years,” David says. “And now doing this, from registering them to vote, we can see what their life will be like five more years from now. I can imagine them running for office, being in the PTA, on the city council. You can extrapolate from that moment what they’ll become – these people that will enhance the fabric of our country.”