Sleigh bells are ringing, families are shopping and store lines increase with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. While families eagerly prepare for Christmas, Elizabeth Howard prepares for Shop With a Bulldawg Event Day, an annual event that provides hundreds of children in Athens with Christmas gifts through a shopping day.
Howard, a senior from Peachtree City, Georgia, is a committed leader in the Athens community. She’s been involved in a variety of campus organizations at the University of Georgia, as well as many philanthropic opportunities in her hometown of Peachtree City. Also known as “Howie,”she is most fondly recognized as the brains of campus organization Shop With a Bulldawg, a nonprofit organization that provides holiday gifts for underprivileged Athens children and students. Her devotion to this cause and her strong leadership skills earned her the title of executive director for this year’s SWAB executive board and holiday event.
Shop with a Bulldawg serves over 500 children each year and provides Athens children with UGA mentors who take them shopping for the holiday season on event day. Because of Howard’s devotion to this cause and her commitment to leading mentors in this experience, this campus organization will help hundreds of underprivileged families in the Athens area this holiday season. The 2014 SWAB event on Dec. 6 and is expected to be the largest event in the organization’s history.
Howard’s experience in Shop with a Bulldawg began her freshman year in 2011. She served as a mentor, which allowed her to shop with a child in the program and form a strong and positive relationship. Howard joined the event planning committee as a sophomore, where she learned the background of the event and assisted team members with organizing the event day. Her junior year, she was elected director of event planning, which helped her prepare for her current position.
As executive director, Howard is the hands and feet of the group. She oversees the organization and holds her members accountable to ensure that they are progressing in a timely manner and completing all necessary tasks. In Howard’s opinion, the most crucial part of her job is to ensure that her executive board, committees, and mentors experience growth through this experience.
“My responsibility is to make sure everyone grows as a leader every single time he or she steps into a meeting,” Howard said. “I want to make sure that each individual is ready to take on larger leadership roles for the next year.”
Howard also works to create a close and passionate community throughout the organization. She believes SWAB is a great organization because the group’s efforts are rewarded through the grateful attitudes of the children this program benefits.
“These people that participate in our program are so happy, thankful and grateful,” Howard said. “It is humbling to me as a reminder each year that it is not always about the gifts; it’s about the giving.”
Howard’s heart for service and passion for SWAB’s mission have encouraged executive board members such as Recruitment Chair Rachel Lumsden during the months of preparation for the holiday event. According to Lumsden, Howard stands out as an intentional leader who cares deeply about the relationship she establishes with her fellow executive board members.
“Elizabeth immediately made me feel welcomed. She bakes treats for us almost every meeting, answers emails constantly, and does more than anyone sees,” Lumsden said. “She knows how to handle people so well and always goes the extra mile to make sure executive board members feel comfortable, motivated and uplifted.”
Outside of her involvement in SWAB, Howard is also the treasurer for PRSSA, the Public Relations Student Society of America. Kunal Tanna, a PRSSA member and SWAB mentor, remembers encountering Howard for the first time and noting her leadership and kindness.
“Elizabeth is an understanding, cooperative people-person,” Tanna said. “She is willing to work with others in a way that is selfless, which is why she stands out as a leader in the Athens community.”
The Athens and UGA communities will continue to benefit from Howard’s service as she finishes her studies at the university this May and has plans to pursue a career in Washington, D.C.