Westminster Network In Action
Growing meaningful relationships to nourish a community
by Conor Bentley (MEd. ’08)
The Westminster Network can work in deep and far-reaching ways, and in no case is that more true than with alumna Pat Thomas (MACL ’16). As a capstone project for her Master of Community Leadership (MACL) degree, Pat developed her idea for the Backyard GardenShare (BGS), a nonprofit that created a system for connecting the extra vegetables and fruits from home gardens to distribution partners who share the produce with local families in need. She knew there was real potential in this idea, but she was having trouble getting her nonprofit off the ground. The work necessary was daunting and a little overwhelming, so Pat reached out to her MACL classmates and professors for help. One suggested Pat apply for Master Track, Westminster’s master’s-level mentoring program.
“Master Track opened up my world and advanced my hunger-relief efforts in every way,” says Pat, who credits Master Track leaders, Martha Felt Barton (’80) and Jeff Paris, with putting her on the right path, “with an incredible support team.”
“Master Track gives people the ability to dig in over nine months and really focus on their careers. It gives them time to learn what networking really means and to develop their network,” explains Martha, who used her long association with Westminster College as an alumna and trustee to help plug Pat into a vast network of people who could help her execute her business plan. These connections—along with the helpful ideas and support from her cohort—are just part of what Pat calls Master Track’s “mentality of abundance.”
“My mentors and cohort were fully and freely engaged in helping me, not holding back as if there were a limited amount of good ideas or good will, or people who might be able to extend our mission and reach,” Pat says.
Through Master Track connections, Pat was introduced to Chris Thomas (’96), CEO of Intrepid, a public relations agency in Salt Lake, who agreed to help BGS as a pro bono client. Chris connected Pat to Haley McLennan (MPC ’12) on the Intrepid team. Haley just so happened to be a Westminster alumna as well, who acquired her job at Intrepid through Chris, who was her mentor through the Master Track program.
Just like everyone in Pat’s cohort, Haley saw real potential in Pat’s nonprofit and was eager to help out another Master Tracker. “Master Track was definitely one of the most beneficial parts of my master’s education,” says Haley.
With Haley and the Intrepid team’s help, BGS received target audience research, messaging development, SEO strategy, a new more robust website, and public relations help to get the word about her project out to the community. Backyard GardenShare has now been able to collect and distribute over 17 tons of produce to thousands of Utah families.
The relationships between Pat, Martha, Chris, and Haley are a perfect example of the strength and depth of the Westminster network. Thanks to the connections Pat was able to tap into through Master Track, she can continue to “extend the community’s green thumb to the plates of the hungry.”
Visit backyardgardenshare.org for more information about Pat’s Backyard GardenShare.
About the Westminster Review
The Westminster Review is Westminster University’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.