Michelle Dillingham, MSW, is CEO of Community Shares of Greater Cincinnati. Community Shares is a partnership of 24 diverse Cincinnati area nonprofit organizations, helping member agencies with awareness and support through workplace giving campaigns, professional enrichment, community education and a variety of innovative initiatives. Michelle moved to Cincinnati about 19 years ago and has been impacting local lives through social service ever since.
Please read below to learn more about her.
GTGA: Why are you so passionate about social service?
Michelle: When I was young, my family had to access food stamps. It was our having to have needed benefits and services, and recognizing those challenges that drew me to work in social services. This field is a way to connect me with people who are in the struggle and to accompany them along the path as they are trying to get their needs met.
When I am with clients, at their side, whether we are in the food stamp office, they are applying for Section 8 housing, or when they are waiting for the resources and dealing the accompanying frustration, I can say – I know how you feel and it is tough and we will do this together.
Throughout life, I have always been very moved by injustice, strongly feeling a need to respond and do something about it.
GTGA: In life, what is one of proudest accomplishments?
Michelle: Not too long ago I walked into a room for a community meeting and someone made a comment to the effect of, ‘Michelle is here. Oh, now we will keep it real and get some work done.’
That was my proudest moment because what that meant to me was that through the years of my work, others recognize that I legitimately care about justice issues and that I am someone who will dig in and fight for causes. It also said to me that when I participate on an issue, that my contribution is valued.
GTGA: What are some of your simple pleasures in life.
Michelle: My son has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. We got him a recumbent bike that he can ride for miles so we do a lot of bike riding on the Miami Loveland trail. I am from New England, and we also try to get to the ocean at least once a year.
GTGA: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Michelle: I used to think I would be a therapist. Then, one of my first professors as a masters level student told me we can all be a change agent and have the capacity to affect change. It struck me at that moment that not only can I walk with people while they get what they need but I can affect the systems that they are interfacing with. We all have the ability to change the world.