Interview Series: MeKenzie Lund, Vice President and Director of New York Operations

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How did you get involved with ONA?

Susan and I connected through the Miss America Organization in 2013, about six weeks after she founded Operation Not Alone. As daughters of veterans, we formed a very special bond. It was the dedication and drive that she put behind the ONA mission that drew me to volunteer with ONA. Seven years later, Susan is a sister to me and we have grown the organization beyond what we thought possible under her leadership.

What has been your favorite part of working with ONA?

I love knowing that we’re making a difference, and we’re doing it together. Serving our country in the military is not a thankless job. We live out the mission of giving thanks to our veterans and military personnel in everything we do.

How have you helped the organization grow? How has it helped you grow? 

I became ONA’s Director of Community Relations in 2016, after helping out here and there with some of ONA’s initiatives. After moving to New York, Susan and I met to talk about the future of Operation Not Alone. We knew that in order to grow, we had to make big moves. So we worked together to expand operations and have a broader reach, re-branded our mission, vision, and the look of the organization, and we added a few new services. 

It has helped me grow by challenging me to work on projects I have never done before. There is still so much to learn, but I’m grateful to do it in a setting with my best friend and the greatest team we could ask for.

Tell us about your full time job.

I am currently the Lead Community Engagement Specialist at Girl Scouts of Western New York. I love my job. Girl Scouts is a changed organization today than it was 50 years. Yes, girls still sell cookies (yes to female entrepreneurship!), go to camp, and learn life skills. But they also engineer robots, become more civically engaged, and make the world a better place with service to their communities.

Why girl scouts? How did you become and stay involved? 

I was a Girl Scout for 8 years when I was younger. My mom signed me up in 1st grade along with my friend and her mom. Together, our moms were our troop leaders and it was so much fun to earn badges, go to sleepovers at the YMCA, go to camp, and make tons of new friends. As an adult, I was excited for the opportunity to work with Girl Scouts. I was pleasantly surprised at how much the organization had progressed and evolved to stay relevant for girls.

How long have you been in Buffalo, NY? What is your favorite part of living there?

I’ve been in Buffalo for 4 years. The city and the whole area, really, has grown on me. The people here are wonderful. I’m happy to have surrounded myself with the most amazing co-workers, friends, and networks. One of Buffalo’s nicknames is “The City of Good Neighbors” and I 100% agree. I also love being here during Buffalo’s revitalization- it’s a cool place to be!

What are some of your hobbies?

I love crafting and DIY projects. I also enjoy trivia and baking. In a non-COVID world, I love to travel and explore new places. 

What are your favorite books?

I enjoy the Harry Potter series. Lately, I’ve been more interested in self-help books and non-fiction when I get time to read.

What is your biggest dream right now?

I don’t know if it’s the biggest, but one of my most unique dreams is to build or buy a cozy tiny home and travel the country in it. I’d love to have the ability to travel and work wherever I wish!

Best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Recognize and play off of your strengths. What are you good at? What do you like to do? How can you apply that to your work? I love interacting with people, and public speaking, and solo projects. Some of my strengths play off of what I love to do. I continue to navigate how I can further integrate what I love to do and what my strengths are. And that is all thanks to the advice that I received from a colleague- to understand your strengths and find a place to utilize them.

Allison Foster                                                                                                                                       

Director of Communications

MeKenzie Lund                                                                                                                                              

Vice President and Director of New York Operations

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