“I love to grow sunflowers,” says Jim Westmoreland. “Every Spring, I find some unique seeds and plant them in the yard and watch them grow. I just like the whole process from the beginning of planting the seeds to the end of seeing the beautiful flowers.”
His commitment to the big picture and genuine care for others–which he credits to his parents–is what fuels Jim’s aspiration for Greensboro: for everyone to enjoy a life that they want to live.
“I’m just wired to help people,” says Jim. “I love working with people and serving people; I love helping them improve their life and the quality of their life.”
Jim serves as Greensboro’s city manager, and also finds the time to invest in his community as a member of the United Way of Greater Greensboro Board of Directors. In 1998, he began serving as a volunteer with the then “Caring for Everyone’s Health” committee. He’s been hooked ever since.
“In my role as city manager–with the things I see and experience every day, with the people I hear from in this community–I know there is a lot of need out there,” says Jim. “United Way has a unique way of connecting people and resources to make an impact and difference in the lives of people in our community. I see it all the time.”
He recently met a young woman at a back-to-school event with Greensboro Police Department. The single mom of five–who worked three jobs to support her family–hoped to go home with one of the new backpacks they were raffling off that day for one of her children. At the end of the event, they crossed paths again; she had won a bag. “I understood what poverty looks like in Greensboro and the important work we all have to do together when she turned to me and said, ‘This is great, but I still don’t know where I’m going to get the money to provide book bags for my other four children.'”
“I have my mind, skills and resources to make a difference. If we all have that same mindset, we could be a different Greensboro.”
“I see this woman who is working her absolute hardest to provide for her five kids, I hear the love and the passion and how she wants her kids to be so successful. I hear the fragile elements of hope that are left, and the cry of despair in her voice, and I think, if she loses hope then what happens?”
He has experienced the value of United Way’s work in his personal life as well. On July 10, 2013, Jim’s father was hit and fatally injured by a motorist while cycling in Myrtle Beach, SC. When he talks about his father, there’s no suppressing the welling tears. “My father and I had a very strong relationship, as many fathers and sons do,” he says. “There’s a lot of love in our family.”
His small close-knit family was shaken to the core by the tragedy. Jim and his wife found themselves not only grieving for his father and dealing with estate matters, but also caring for his mother. She suffers from mental and physical health issues and was very dependent on Jim’s father to assist her with life and medical needs.
After a few months of his mother staying with them, she wanted to get back to her own home. Jim and his wife arranged for in-home care but were concerned for his mother’s mental health history and how she might negatively respond to the loss. They discovered a grief counseling service through Hospice and Palliative Care in Winston-Salem, a United Way supported program in Forsyth County. The service helped his mother and their whole family immensely.
“I’m probably like most everyone else.” says Jim. “I give because I feel good about how the money we provide to agencies and people in the community really does make a difference; I’ve seen it first hand. I had no idea before July 10, that I would ever have a need for accessing services. The value of the service and the people who provided it and the impact it had on my mother and my family means the world to me.”