Rita Harmon

Rita Harmon

Rita Harmon
Rita Harmon, Board Chair 1992-1993

United Way is built on the strength of its volunteers. More than 800 volunteers participate in United Way programs annually, helping with the Annual Campaign, our Community Partner review process, United We Read, and other opportunities. Many volunteers stay involved for years, as was the case with Rita Harmon.

Rita's Commitment to United Way

Rita was a former Assistant City Manager for the City of Lubbock. She began volunteering in the Fund Distribution Division which reviewed agency allocation requests, a process now managed by the Community Impact Committee. Volunteers for the Fund Distribution Division reviewed agency requests, toured the agencies, and reviewed any emergency funding requests. Rita was fully committed to ensuring transparency and accountability throughout the process. As a donor herself, she valued United Way’s commitment to making sure gifts were used appropriately to achieve measurable outcomes.

In January 1992, Rita became the third woman to serve as United Way Board Chair, proceeded by Kay Houser in 1982 and Marjorie Kastman in 1986. One of her first tasks was to lead a search for a new CEO to follow Dr. Sam Richards. The board hired current President and CEO, Glenn Cochran in May 1992. Just a few months prior, Rita was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Despite her diagnosis, Rita continued in her role as board chair until her death on July 12, 1993. Jerry Schaffner who stepped in to chair the board following Rita’s death wrote in United Way’s Fall 1993 newsletter, “You always knew you could count on Rita. She didn’t just make a decision; she made the right decision.”

Rita Harmon Volunteer Service Award

Following Rita’s death, United Way established the Rita Harmon Volunteer Service Award to recognize individuals and couples who show a commitment of service to others, determination and persistence in fulfilling volunteer obligations, loyalty and integrity, are actively involved in community activities in addition to United Way, and are dedicated to helping people on the South Plains. The first Rita Harmon Volunteer Service Award was awarded to Rita posthumously in January 1994 at the Annual Meeting.

In 1992, Rita told the Loaned Executive volunteers, “In our grandfather’s day, when a family was stricken with disaster, neighbors banded together to bring in the crops, rebuild the house, or distribute food from the pantries. As society has changed, the way in which we help our neighbors has also had to change. Oftentimes, in our community, we don’t know our neighbors. Those in need are faceless to us, but the people are real, their needs are real, and our desire to offer something of ourselves to help those in need is very real.”

Her words are still true today. Perhaps we’ve seen it more in the past year than at any other time in recent history.

Our need for each other is great. United Way is the connecting force that brings neighbors together to meet needs. Rita understood this, and like so many before her and after her, led United Way to fulfill this commitment of Giving ∙ People ∙ Hope.

Rita Harmon Volunteer Service Award Winners

1993 Rita Harmon
1994 J.C. Chambers
1995 Marjorie Kastman
1996 B.C. “Peck” McMinn
1997 J. W. Spears
1998 Jack and Mary Nell Strong
1999 Alan Henry
2000 Betty Anderson
2001 Dr. Robert Stripling
2002 David Seim 
2003 Dr. Robert Ewalt
2004 Vernita Woods-Holmes
2005 Kevin McMahon
2006 Betty and Jim Lowder
2007 Irasema Velasquez
2008 Gilbreath Family
2009 John Elliott
2010 Harold Jones
2011 Jay Eagan
2012 Adrienne Cozart
2013 Greg Jones
2014 Matt Bumstead
2015 Sharon and Byrnie Bass
2016 Betty Dotts
2017 Douglas and Kay Sanford
2018 Norval Pollard
2019 Brad and Carla Moran

*As we were not able to hold an Annual Meeting in January, the 2020 Rita Harmon Award will be announced later in 2021.