Shila Ulrich '05 Serves Community as Executive Director of the Caring Cupboard
As a first-generation college student, Shila Williams Ulrich ’05 arrived at The Valley unsure of what path to take. While she was good at several things, she was not gifted in an area that led to a natural calling.
“I volunteered in high school, so I recognized I had a desire to serve,” she said. “I just was not sure how to put that into action.”
With the guidance and mentorship of Dr. Deanna Dodson, professor of psychology, she settled into a psychology major and then pursued her master’s degree in social work, graduating from Temple University.
While working at an outpatient mental health clinic, Ulrich was continuing her call to service as a volunteer at the Caring Cupboard in Palmyra, Pa. The Caring Cupboard is a ministry that provides food and additional support to about 130 area families each week. They also offer a summer lunch program to students in the Palmyra Area School District.
However, after 10 years as a volunteer, it became apparent that to move the program forward and make an impact for more families, one of the volunteers would need to step in as a full-time executive director. That’s exactly what Ulrich did.
Leaving her full-time job, Ulrich—with the support of her husband Derek ’05, M’09, a fellow LVC alum—made a family commitment to the Caring Cupboard. In her new role, not only is Ulrich drawing on her educational experience, she also is relying on her time as a student worker in the LVC Office of Marketing & Communications, including the coordination of Dr. Stephen MacDonald’s, president emeritus, inauguration.
“This position requires more than my social work training,” Ulrich said. “It’s working and meeting with clients and donors. It’s fundraising. It’s counseling.”
Part of Ulrich’s responsibilities is also building partnerships with area businesses, and the Caring Cupboard also has a tie to LVC. Twice a week, students from the College’s chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon deliver leftover food from the dining hall. The food originally prepared by Metz Culinary Management is then packaged into meals for Caring Cupboard families.
“The College creates an environment where it’s important to see the community succeed,” said Ulrich. “It’s the type of students that go to LVC. I have several friends who are alumni who still volunteer, too. Altruism is a result of your experiences.”