From Caring Matters, March 2014
McDonald native Rachel Gladden may have retired from her days of teaching kindergartners and first graders, but as a “full-time” volunteer, her schedule is as busy as ever!
“Helping is who I am. I want to be a better person, and I believe the Women of Philanthropy Giving Circle is a new avenue that will help me in that respect.”
As a proud and active member of the community, Rachel has taken a multi-faceted approach to service by committing her time to diverse projects and programs.
For years, she was involved with the Downtown Business District Authority. Some may recall her performances as Mrs. Claus during Washington’s annual Christmas parade. Others may know of her work as an Elder and Deacon at the Church of the Covenant as well as Volunteer Chairman for Washington Hospital (now Washington Health System). She continues her service to the hospital by volunteering weekly in the surgical department and co-chairing the Orchard Society, which is an association of WHS supporters who give together to make a greater impact on the health care in the community. Additionally, Rachel is a history enthusiast who has spent two decades as a supporter of the David Bradford House, devoting her time and talents to preserve this local landmark. Leading the calendar fundraiser has been a great source of pride for her.
However, helping the victims of abuse is a cause to which she is especially drawn. Rachel currently serves as the Board President of Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern Pennsylvania (formerly the Washington Women’s Shelter). It is her belief that promoting and supporting the good work of this local organization is one of the best things she has ever done.
“Seeing the plight of disadvantaged children and families in this community hit me hard. I can recall instances where I discovered children were living out of cars or being abused, and I wasn’t sure what to do. By becoming involved with local charitable groups, such as DVSSP, I learned that our community has wonderful services that can help people in their times of need,” Rachel remarked.
In 2008, she was recognized for her exceptional long-standing volunteer efforts through the Washington Rotary’s Community Service Award. “When I received the award, I remember thinking ‘it can’t get any better than this,’ but it did.”
Rachel was encouraged to join the WOPGC by someone who knows her best – her husband of over 50 years, Judge Tom Gladden, who is very passionate about his service as a WCCF Trustee as well as the work that is being done by the Foundation.
One of the current objectives of the Giving Circle is to add an intergenerational component to the group. As an educator, Rachel is particularly excited about opportunities to help teach to young people about philanthropy.
“It is vital to have those experienced in service and charitable activities reach out to the next generation of leaders so that the cycle can continue.”
She went on to say, “I have spent most of my life working to help children and families in this community. I have seen a lot, I have done a lot, and I have a good idea of what some of the problems are. Together, the Women of Philanthropy Giving Circle can do something about things that are happening in our part of the world and make a difference here in Washington County.”