+ By Theresa C. Sanchez + Photos by Allison Zaucha
It’s the end of yet another busy workday. You head home, pick up the mail, and the minute you slide into your favorite chair and put your feet up, you realize that you’re about to miss yet another appointment. Facing exhaustion, you have a decision to make: do you head back out or just skip it? For Annapolis-based private business owner, community advocate, and recent Fannie Lou Hamer Award recipient Yvette Jackson-Morrow, there is only one answer, especially when it comes to volunteering.
“You just do it. You just find the time. You have to set your priorities and make it part of your routine,” says Jackson-Morrow. “Volunteering is just a part of me. When I have a love for something, I just do it. There are tradeoffs, but everything in life is.”
The 50-year-old wife, mother, and part-time student with an additional full-time job, has been assisting others in a variety of capacities since her parochial school days in Brooklyn, New York. That’s where her late grandmother Evelyn—whom Jackson-Morrow referred to as “the neighborhood grandma and living history book”—instilled the importance of service to all 13 of her grandchildren and led by example. Whether it was visiting with the elderly at senior centers, offering people temporary shelter, or cooking food for the hungry, time was valuable and not meant to be squandered.
“I was raised to give back. [She] set the foundation that you’re always supposed to give back and that we were born to serve. It’s my passion,” Jackson-Morrow says. To this day, she emulates the late matriarch and champions her motto: “I may not be able to save the world, but if I can make a difference in one person’s life, I have done more than many.”
Her drive to help the underserved and marginalized didn’t stop when school ended; it only became stronger, evolving into a broader mission of fighting for justice, and leading her to pursue work as a legal secretary/paralegal. In 1995, she moved to Annapolis to make a better life for herself and her family and became engaged within her community almost immediately, starting at her children’s school.
“I was very involved in making sure that they received fair treatment and the education they were entitled to,” she says. “I always told [them] knowledge was power, [and that you can be] stripped of everything [but not of] what’s in your head.”
In 1997, Jackson-Morrow joined the Anne Arundel County Branch of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), one of the nation’s oldest civil rights organizations. There, she focused on mobilizing citizens to vote through registration and education. One of her best memories was bringing the spirit of unity and diversity to life in August 2013, when she participated with the nonprofit and its myriad chapters in the March on Washington’s fiftieth anniversary. A year later, she won the NAACP President’s Award for going above and beyond her peers as a leader and community organizer.
Jackson-Morrow also donates her time and energy across numerous area organizations. She was elected second vice president of the child-focused Anne Arundel County chapter of Continental Societies, Inc., after serving two years as its historian and chair of recreation and earning its President’s Award in 2009. She operates as Conductress of the Miriam Chapter 24, Order of the Eastern Star, Prince Hall Affiliated, Severna Park, and is an auxiliary member of the American Legion Cook-Pinkney Post 141.
In 2008, Jackson-Morrow switched careers and began working at Edison Electric Institute in Washington, DC. Her boss knew of her interest in giving back—which also included annual charity walks with The United Way, Walk MS, and the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure—and entrusted her with coordinating the department’s volunteer initiative. She and her colleagues have been serving food to the homeless and less fortunate at So Others Might Eat (S.O.M.E.) on the fourth Tuesday of each month since 2014.
“Her service is an example of how women and people in general can improve their community,” says Carl Snowden, Capital Gazette columnist and chairman of the Martin Luther King Committee, Inc., which works in partnership with St. John’s College to honor the work of Fannie Lou Hamer, a feminist and original foot soldier of the civil rights movement. “There are some things people must do for themselves, and I think she does a lot of things. It’s important for people to get involved, look at the problems affecting their community, roll up their sleeves, and get busy changing society, and Mrs. Jackson-Morrow is an example of someone who excels at that.”
Jackson-Morrow emphasizes that she does not pursue volunteer work to win awards or be put in the spotlight. The work is just as necessary to her existence as is oxygen. When it comes to her altruism, she thinks locally and globally. Her concern for Mexico’s September 2017 earthquake victims prompted her and her high school friend Dr. Debbie Young to donate 75 toiletry-filled backpacks across the border.
“She’s a workaholic who doesn’t know when to say no. She’s a leader who takes on anything and everything we ask her to do,” says Christine Davenport, retired Anne Arundel County teacher and founding member of the local Continental Societies chapter. “She doesn’t mind overextending herself so that the kids have what they need to thrive.”
Humans at all ends of life’s spectrum interest Jackson-Morrow. One of the reasons she stepped down as NAACP branch secretary in January 2017 was so that she could focus on her current studies in mortuary science. She anticipates completing school in 2019 to become a licensed funeral director. To her, the career shift is a natural progression of service. “I look at it as being the last caregiver to your loved one,” she says.
Now a grandmother, Jackson-Morrow is not shy about imparting advice to ensure there is a future generation of volunteers. “I think we need to teach our children to do more community service work, and I think we could implement that in the school system,” she says. “If you start instilling that at home, even in the midst of what goes on outside the world, it’s already their foundation. So when you instill love and not hatred, and you instill being kind to others and not turning away when you see someone in distress, when you learn that at home, it’s just like your sixth sense. It’s something that you will do automatically. You won’t think about it. You don’t think about it. You just do it.” █