Mon, Feb. 24

Balance is key to Lori Simmons' busy life
Family is the foundation of her active, successful lifestyle

Being busy is normal for Lori Simmons, senior business relationship manager for Wells Fargo Bank. A banking career and family with three sons under 11 would keep most people busier than they'd like.

But Lori likes more, a lot more.

A former Rotarian who chaired that organization's annual Duck Race and hosted one of its foreign exchange students, Lori is president of the Dr. Daniel Bright Elementary School PTO. She heads up that group's fall carnival and is the coordinator of the cartridge-recycling program, a fund-raising effort that brings in a lot of money for local schools.

She also serves on the Marilyn Sunderman Scholarship Committee, which puts money into the hands of teachers throughout the Verde Valley for art education and beautification projects. And, if that isn't enough to keep a young mother busy, Lori is a coach and the commissioner for the Cottonwood Little League's Coach-Pitch division.

Involvement with family and community is a habit Lori picked up when she was 5 years old.

"I was raised with the idea of volunteerism," she said. "In my family, it was a way of life."

Family -- husband, Mark; and sons Lucas, 10; Zachary, 8; and Kyle, 4 -- still plays a vital role in Lori's busy life.

"Truthfully, without a supportive family, I couldn't do half of the community support activities I do," Lori said. "My children are what motivates me to be the PTO president and the Little League coach, and my husband allows me time away from the kids to be effective in these organizations."

Even with family support, leading an active lifestyle also requires some skills and the ability to identify what is most important. Lori credits her education, a bachelor's degree in finance from Northern Arizona University, and her business experience.

"I don't have any more time than anyone else," Lori said. "I just allocate my time. Anybody can do what I do."

She said one important skill is recognizing that you don't have to do everything yourself, but you have to know how to ask for help.

Experience also helps. "In all these non-profits, I work with my sales and organizational skills," she said.

Lori said that besides family support, being active with children's and civic organizations requires a commitment from one's employer. "I feel very fortunate to work for a company that has a community involvement commitment.

"If you don't have the support from home and from your employer, it doesn't happen," she said.

Another key element in balancing family life with work and volunteering is the ability to set priorities and, sometimes, saying "no."

A good example is Lori's four-year membership with Rotary International, which she recently gave up. She said she simply couldn't participate at this time and have a direct impact on her own children's lives. So she gave up Rotary to devote more time to activities which put her in direct contact with her kids and their well being. Lori said she loved Rotary and looks forward to returning to the organization when her children are older.

Lori feels that if she is going to put in the time volunteering with community organizations, she wants to be able to have a positive impact. For her, that means improving things.

With the PTO, she led the effort to provide childcare during meetings. "We tripled participation by doing that," she said.

As commissioner of the Coach Pitch division of Little League, Lori increased revenue for the league by working to sell more advertising signs in the outfield at Herridge Field. At the same time, she asked advertisers to pay $300 for the signs instead of $250. Their payoff was having a company name on the back of the T-shirts being sold at the concession stands.

"If you want to raise more money, you have to be creative," Lori said. "In business, we have to be creative everyday."

Mixed into the balance of her active life, Lori understands the importance of taking care of herself. She walks every morning and works out at lunch instead of eating.

"I continually educate and motivate myself," she said.

When her days of work and volunteering come to an end, Lori heads home where she cooks, does laundry and housework. She said she keeps at it until everything is done.

"That's because when I finally sit down, I fall asleep," she said.

To help out, the boys all have chores, such as taking out the trash, loading and unloading the dishwasher and feeding the dogs.

Every now and then, she even gets out of town to shop and spend time alone.

"There is "me" time, even though it may be only once a month or so," she said.

But the true foundation of Lori's commitment to her family and community is simply the fact that spending so much time and effort volunteering is what she enjoys most.

She says that nothing she does is a burden. "Anything that feels like a burden needs to be analyzed."

Although Lori stays plenty busy with all she has to do, she is actually looking to the future. She thinks she may run for the school board at some point.

She said she wonders where she can do the most good, have the biggest impact for her family and community. The school board is something I want to look into, she said.

"I think I could have a significant impact."

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