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Sam Allbrook

Operations manager for the Women's Philanthropy Board
College of Human Sciences

Samantha "Sam" Allbrook is the operations manager for the Women's Philanthropy Board, or WPB, in the College of Human Sciences. She is an Auburn native and, like many others, she followed in her family's footsteps and attended Auburn University. Allbrook earned a bachelor's degree in entrepreneurship and family business from the College of Business in 2007, joining her mother, aunt and uncle as Auburn alumni. However, it is Allbrook's grandparents, Lee and Bob Cannon, who started the family connection to Auburn, and ultimately directed Allbrook to her current job. The Cannons moved to Auburn in the fall of 1948 when Bob got a faculty position in dairy sciences and dairy manufacturing. He remained on faculty for 36 years, while Lee was on the faculty in Human Sciences for 30 years. In 2002, Lee was among the group of women who started the Women's Philanthropy Board at Auburn.

1. You grew up in Auburn and have family connections to Auburn University. When it came to picking a college, did you have a choice besides Auburn?

I grew up an Auburn Tiger surrounded by all the things that make this university and town a very special place. Of course I had a choice, but it was always Auburn for me.

2. You graduated from the College of Business, so how did you get involved with the Women's Philanthropy Board in the College of Human Sciences? Did your grandmother play a role since she was a founding member?

My senior year at Auburn, Granny (Lee Cannon) invited me to attend the WPB Fall Luncheon featuring S. Truett Cathy, founder and chairman of Chick-fil-A. It was a very positive experience for me, and I was very inspired by his message, as well as the WPB members and supporters. From that one experience alone, I felt the transformational effect the WPB has on people. After graduation in spring 2007, I was seeking to launch a career when my grandmother told me that the WPB was interested in hiring someone part-time to manage the day-to-day operations of the program. Two days later, I sat down with Sid (James Nakhjavan, WPB director) in her office in Spidle Hall, and we discussed the vision and mission of the WPB and the organization's needs. I left that room with plans to work part-time through the end of the year. In January 2008, I moved to Daphne, Ala. After eight months there, I knew I wanted to be back in Auburn. The day after I made the decision to move back to Lee County, Sid happened to call to "check-in" and I shared my plans with her. Sid asked if I would consider working again with the WPB, and I have been working for the organization ever since.

3. What's the most challenging part of your job? The most rewarding?

The most challenging part of my job is keeping up with our incredible growth. We, as an organization, have and continue to expand at a very rapid pace. In fact, since 2008, our offices alone have been in three different locations, and we have expanded our programming immensely. As philanthropic entrepreneurs, staying "one step ahead" proves to be a challenge every day.

The most rewarding part of my job is seeing the change in the people with whom we share our message of financial and philanthropic responsibility. I love watching people, especially the WPB members, grow and mature when they feel they are more prepared to navigate through their financial and philanthropic lives. I thrive when I watch someone's eyes light up when they express their philanthropic passions. I get a real charge out of listening to a six-year-old at Camp iCare describe their favorite philanthropist. It inspires me to hear a teenager in REAL Cents-REAL Change talk about their acquired knowledge of handling their personal finances at any stage in life.

4. Tell me about the new programming the Women's Philanthropy Board has started in the last few years - Camp iCare and REAL Cents-REAL Change. Do you think they are making a difference in our community?

The inaugural Camp iCare took place in July 2010 at the Early Learning Center on Auburn's campus. We had 20 campers ages 6-12 for four half-days and the experience changed us as much as it did them. Through Camp iCare, we aim to teach children how to be financially and philanthropically responsible at an early age. Since that first year, Camp iCare has doubled in size and moved to Wrights Mill Road Elementary School which allows us to teach 40 children about financial and philanthropic responsibility and help prepare them for a sustainable life. Camp iCare does indeed make a difference in the community. Last year, for example, one of the campers had a birthday party in which they asked not for gifts, but for canned food to donate to the local food bank.

REAL Cents-REAL Change is a joint venture between the Cary Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Lee County. The hour-long weekly sessions are held at the Cary Center and aim to teach teens about financial and philanthropic responsibility. They participate in activities from creating a budget for life after high school to exploring who they are as people and what issues they feel passionate about. REAL Cents-REAL Change does make a difference in the lives of these teenagers as sometimes this is the first time they are asked to make a budget, write a check or advocate on behalf of an organization or cause they believe in. Teens leave REAL Cents-REAL Change empowered and ready to take on the world.

5. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Women's Philanthropy Board and you have helped plan the 10th Spring Symposium, featuring Jenna Bush Hager, daughter of former President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush. From your view on the inside of the Women's Philanthropy Board, where do you see the group going in the next 10 years?

What a privilege and honor it has been to serve the organization. I can truly attest that the vision and mission of the group is not only fulfilling professionally, but it strengthens me personally. Probably the most important thing I have learned in my tenure with the WPB is the importance of a multitude of people from all backgrounds and locations channeling their time, talent, treasure and trust together to advance the organization's vision and mission to affect change in a positive way. As in the first decade of our history, we look forward to continuing to make a profound and positive impact on students, faculty, members and other philanthropic investors in Auburn and abroad. We believe the WPB will serve as the flagship program for the newly established Cary Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies and continue to lead the way as positive philanthropic role models for all generations of philanthropists.

April 23, 2012