“My mother was the first social work-like person I had ever met,” says Cindy Bautista-Thomas. “She did a lot of work in the community
“She would volunteer at church, at the soup kitchens, and help people in the community by providing them with resources she would identify,” says Bautista-Thomas, the director of Region III for the NASW national board of directors, which represents New York State.
“I wanted to be a person that could support other people and to (help them) find their gifts and talents,” Bautista-Thomas says of what inspired her to enter social work. “Everyone has something to contribute to the world. And sometimes, people need someone else to help guide them in identifying those things. That encouraged me to go into social work.”
Bautista-Thomas, PhD, LCSW, is a doctoral lecturer at Lehman College, Department of Social Work, at City University of New York. She was appointed to serve in the role after the previous Region III director had to resign. The NASW-New York State president asked her to consider serving for the remainder of the term.
She also spoke about the role with the late Mildred “Mit” Joyner, former NASW national president. “I was so inspired by her energy and what she explained—that this was an opportunity to connect with other leaders across the country,” Bautista-Thomas says.
Helping the decision was that she had just taken on an academic role, which allowed her more flexibility and time.
“I wanted to be more grounded in the profession,” Bautista-Thomas says. “I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to do that and to dedicate some of my leadership skills to the profession.”
She notes giving back is part of the social work Code of Ethics. Service is one of the values, she says. “Service is something everyone can contribute to. In order for us to grow in the ways that are needed at this time, it’s going to take more than our 9 to 5 jobs to make the impact that is needed politically, the impact that is needed on the grassroots level.”
“It’s important to volunteer, because not one social worker can do it all,” she adds. “Being in a space where you make time to volunteer will make a broader impact in the world on issues that need support.”