First Lady Carla Markell, is a Newark native and a UD alumni, and the wife of Governor Jack Markell. As an advocate for volunteerism and non-profit support in the state, she has helped raise support for volunteerism and supporting local causes.
Can you talk a little bit about the state of non-profit organizations and volunteerism in Delaware? Which areas are particularly noteworthy?
I think DANA (Delaware Association of Nonprofit Associations) does a great job with communication, and their board is really strengthening. They’ve done a really good job of pulling that together.
What I love about Delaware is that I believe there’s a lot of collaboration between organizations and partnerships with other non-profits who are trying to achieve the same goals even though they may have a different purpose.
Delaware is such a neat place in the sense that we all know each other, live near somebody who grew up here, or have two degrees of separation. Because of that, I believe it’s more about cooperation rather than competition.
I think we have one of the more generous corporate communities in the country. I think if you look on a per capita basis, our corporations give more than other places in the country. I think there is an incredible ethic here.
For instance, I was at an event held by ING called “A Day Of Caring,” where they take 1,000 employees out of their business and do incredible things. They were at Claymont Community Center, where 300 people were painting and doing landscaping, building shelves, building bleachers and improving the internet wireless service connection. It’s a part of the culture that they’ve created, and it’s part of a reason why it’s a good place to work. But they’re not the only ones: Astra Zeneca, DuPont, Barclays bank – I don’t want to leave anyone out – but I think corporate giving is at a higher level than any other state.
And I think as a community we have a tremendous senior citizen force in Sussex County, one of the most active volunteer groups in our whole state. We have this tremendous talent pool of people who have a lot to offer and a lot to give. I’m always just blown away.
We have Habitat for Humanity who builds houses for people so that people who don’t have the financial resources can get to a safe nice home.
We’re one of the few states left that has their own firefighter force, and that’s exceptional. You just don’t find that in every other state. A lot of other states have paid departments, but these people are people doing this on their own time and saving lives.
I think there’s a culture in Delaware that’s really strong. We’re a state of neighbors and because of that we don’t want to see people hurting and suffering so we try to reach out and help.
What are some of the things you have been reading?
I just read Unbroken, which I thought was amazing and I just started Anne Patchett’s new book, State of Wonder.
I’m now using an electronic device, which is new to me. I haven’t done as much reading as I’ve liked to this summer.
You’re a Newark native; what are some of the things you love most about the town, and what do you think of the way it has progressed? Is it the same place, just with different faces? What memories do you have of Newark, growing up?
I loved growing up in Newark, and I was on my bicycle all the time, to White Clay Creek and around campus.
I could tell you all the shops that were there, some of them still are like the Five & Ten, the Newsstand and Grassroots.
I think the campus looks fantastic. The town, I honestly think, looks better than it’s ever looked. Most of the storefronts are completely filled up. It’s a fantastic town and I love it.
How has your experience as First Lady been?
My first response was, “Oh no, maybe I should go get a job elsewhere and avoid it all.” But in reality, Delaware is such a unique place and because of the way it is, we have two or three degrees of separation from people. You can go out into public and really see a lot of people you know.
But that part of it isn’t unique or new, because we’ve all been doing that for years. The best part of it for me has been this opportunity to help people and make a difference. I never really fully understood the capacity to be able to do that until I got into this job and role.
People are really excited to try and help people and make a difference. If I can help facilitate that and be a part of some solution to try and make our state a better place to be and live and work, I don’t want to squander it.
In some ways life prepares you for what’s next and you don’t always know what is. My background sort of helped prepare me for what we’re doing today.
It’s a tremendous privilege and honor. Jack and I love our state and it’s really an amazing opportunity.