Despite having been on E! Entertainment Television and CNN for work, Andrea Smith suddenly turned bashful when she was surprised with an award during the live airing of the Variety Children’s Charity Telethon.
Smith has worked behind the scenes at the telethon for more than a decade. It came as a shock to her when she won the Jay & Judy Rosenberg Award for her efforts.
“It was completely unexpected first of all,” Smith said. “I have been helping with Variety literally since 2001. I have seen others win this award. They hand out one each year during the telethon and it’s awarded to someone who really works behind the scenes, you don’t see them do a lot of interviews and you don’t necessarily see them on TV.”
The Variety telethon has been around since 1975 and proceeds go toward improving the lives of at-risk, under-privileged and special-needs youth. The organization relies heavily on volunteers, especially around telethon time in March, which is where Smith provides a key role.
“My role is to train the volunteers who answer the phone,” Smith said. “I was there at 4:30 and I’m there from that point until the end of the telethon the next day. I train every panel that comes on, hour after hour after hour. So I think by Sunday afternoon I wasn’t even sure what I was training them on by that point. Hopefully I made some sense, I was getting a little blurry-eyed. It was fun. I love it every year, I’m exhausted for the next week, but it’s certainly worth it.”
Smith currently works as industry relations manager for the Vernon Company and devotes her spare time to multiple charitable efforts. She serves on the boards of Jasper County United Way and Newton Christian School.
“I’m happy to help them in any way I can,” Smith said. “I do a lot of other volunteer stuff, but the kids’ charities really tug at your heart.”
Her work with Variety started when her previous job in Chicago served as one of the corporate sponsors for the charity.
“I lived in Chicago for a number of years, so when I moved back to Iowa I knew that one of the ways to get really involved in the community was to start volunteering,” Smith said. “So through my previous employer that really took off. I would meet different charities almost every day as a part of my job and I just found those few that I really wanted to lend my personal time to. There a number of others I was interested in, but you only have so much time and then I do have my own kid. It was the kids’ charities that really stayed with me.”
Smith is so generous with her time in hopes that she instills the same morals and values she displays into her kids.
“You just make time,” Smith said. “It’s harder now that I’m in Newton because the charities I support are in Des Moines. My son said this morning, ‘Mom, can you not be on this board or participate in that activity?’ What I said to him was, ‘Well honey if I don’t do it who will? Somebody has to step up and do it.’ I want to teach them that it’s important to give back. Sometimes it can be a sacrifice, but it’s important.”