If there was a 12-step programme for those addicted to volunteering, Marsha Jones would probably offer to run it. When it comes to volunteering, she is like the Energizer bunny. She just doesn't stop. Sherri Moore, partner/creative director of MCC Planners Inc., who has worked with Jones for 12 years, says, "She can't say no to anything."
Just this Christmas, hearing the Salvation Army was short-handed, Jones donned a red sweater and took charge of a shopping-mall kettle. She laughs, "It was such an interesting time, 'cause I'm not one of these people who just stands by the kettle. I can't do that, it's just not who I am. So I'm saying, 'Hi!' and 'Merry Christmas!' to everybody, and singing Christmas songs to myself." Wide-eyed with the wonderment of the season, she glows, "It worked! People would stop and put money in. It was unbelievable how much I did." In one of those great understatements, she says, "One woman came up and said, 'you're not your typical Salvation Army lady." No, Marsha Jones isn't your typical Salvation Army lady in one sense, but she certainly embodies the universal virtue of giving.
Being around Jones makes one question if she uses the same 24-hour clock everyone else does. Anita Carlyle, a former Jones employee and now managing partner of MCC, says, "I look at her resume and the amount of volunteer hours is unbelievable. She seems to have sat on every board in the city."
Jones has been president of the Toronto chapters of SITE and MPI. She has been MPI's supplier and planner of the year, as well as recipient of their outstanding-volunteer award. She's on the board of the Childhood Cancer Foundation and helps with their fundraising. Over at Tourism Toronto, where she is on her sixth year on the board, Jones heads up the industry relations committee, which developed a corporate social responsibility programme providing weekend breaks at local hotels for parents caring for severely handicapped children at home.
When she became MPI chapter president in 1993-94, Jones brought seven-month-old daughter Alexis along to meetings. But by then, meetings were old hat to Alexis, who attended her first conference at age three months, complete with her own name tag. Jones shrugs. "I managed to get everything done. I don't know how, some days. I look back and think, 'holy moly, what was I thinking?' Everybody thought I was mental. But I managed. You have to."
This year, Jones sold MCC Planners Inc. (but remains as a consultant for the next 15 months), to launch a new company, The Spot, Inc., focusing on consulting, training and communications. But, as she notes, lest anyone accuse her of slacking off, "I still plan to be involved with all the associations!"
As hard as she works for causes dear to her heart and vital to her industry, Jones keeps a healthy sense of humour. For her farewell as MPI chapter president, she appeared as Dolly Parton. And for the MPI World Education Conference, she coaxed volunteers to act as cheerleaders, to present a specially written cheer. Peter Young, event marketing manager for Xerox Canada, says being around Jones is "a lot of fun. She's always up. She always presents herself in a fashion that you want to be with her and follow her lead."
Moore says, "The biggest thing to realize, and what sets Marsha apart from the rest of the pack, is the dedication she has shown over the last 20-plus years. She has done more than just focus on her particular company or our project; she is really focused on the industry as a whole."
Jones' core values are simple and basic: work hard at what you love, focus on the positives and share your good fortune with others.