Over six years ago, Kathleen Thornton had just retired from a 47 year career in both the public and private sectors and was searching for an opportunity to give back. “I wanted to contribute my knowledge and experience to a cause that I believed in. That’s when I discovered the Alternative Sentencing volunteer position at IEUW,” Kathleen recalls. She received her law degree in 2000 and with seventeen years working in the county of San Bernardino in the Child Support Services department and in a courtroom environment two to three times per week, it was the perfect way for her to apply her skills to a worthy cause.
Kathleen quickly plunged into her new work, matching volunteers with mandated community service to organizations that needed them. She verified the completed paperwork and certified that everything was in compliance with the court order, allowing hundreds of people to avoid unnecessary jail time.
Two years later, Kathleen spends three days a week welcoming visitors to Inland Empire United Way. Her warmth radiates from behind the front desk as she provides information to volunteers and support to staff members for a myriad of projects.
Rising Up to Challenges
Kathleen’s career began when she was just 16 years old–working part time while in high school. As a woman entering the workforce in the mid-60s, Kathleen faced barriers unknown to most young women today. “I began my career in 1966 as a clerk at the FBI,” said Kathleen. “When I joined, we didn’t have any other choices.” Her intelligence and tenacity made Kathleen desire more and in the early 70s, Kathleen left the FBI and attended night school at the University of Redlands to obtain a BA in Business Administration and Management while working as a full-time clerk at an architectural/engineering firm.
Life at the firm provided her with far more opportunities for advancement and by the time she had received her degree in 1985, she had worked her way up from clerk to Associate on the Board of Directors. She spent nearly thirty years at the firm and after a tempting offer to purchase the company, along with other associates, she opted out to pursue her law degree in 1996. At nearly fifty years old, Kathleen embarked on her final career, putting her law degree to use with the Department of Child Support Services, which works with parents to ensure families receive court-ordered financial and medical support.
As she pondered retirement, Kathleen recognized that she could meld her people skills with her legal expertise to create a life after retirement. A life that allowed her to truly live her values.
Why Kathleen Lives United
“I was not a happy camper when I was working, but I can honestly say that I go home from volunteering with a smile on my face,” Kathleen says from the front desk of IEUW, where she spends most of her Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Her dedication to helping children and those in need within the community is driven by her love of people and her great-nieces, who are like her grandchildren.
When asked why she volunteers at IEUW, Kathleen replies, “I see the enthusiasm in young people’s eyes. The staff is wonderful and they work incredibly hard each day. I know that everything they do comes from their hearts.” Kathleen plans to continue volunteering with IEUW as long as she is able to get to and from the office. “Of all the things I’ve done in my life, this is the proudest thing I’ve ever done. We should be helping each other.”
IEUW is always searching for long-term volunteers like Kathleen to volunteer their time. Click here to find out how you can help.