In many ways, Muriel Smith always knew she’d find her way to a career in nonprofit — in her ideal world, even leading one. Now, as Executive Director at the St. Louis Area Diaper Bank, she’s not only realizing her dream, but working with an incredible team and community to ensure local families’ basic needs are met. This, she says, has been especially critical during the pandemic. Currently, one in three families is unable to afford diapers.
“We’re here to meet those needs,” Muriel says. “We put love notes in packages so families see it’s not a handout. It’s a hand up. They have a friend in the community who’s trying to help and encourage them.” Beyond diapers, Muriel says, the team supports a number of area nonprofits providing other services and resources for St. Louis area families.
A passionate and purposeful path to today
While Muriel’s path always seemed anchored in service, she admits the journey to this role wasn’t always so linear. After graduating with a communications degree, Muriel began work in development before shifting to PR. But, as she supported more and more nonprofits, she saw one commonality: the need to wear many hats.
“I’ve done fundraising, community relations, volunteer coordination — everything under the sun in my nonprofit career,” Muriel says. “I think that’s important. Now as a leader, I can say, ‘I’ve done what you’re doing — I get it.’ That gives me a very strong sense of what my team should be doing, and how to do it which helps me guide them on their journeys, and make us all better.”
Also central to her success and forward-looking approach? Understanding herself and who she was destined to be. By blocking out unsolicited feedback and advice, and focusing on her passion and commitment to support others, Muriel was able to find her own path forward — a path that inspires and elevates her every single day.
“Looking back, I realize I spent my early career trying to be what other people wanted me to be,” she explains. “Don’t do that. Toss all of that out the window. Be who you are. Be the type of leader that you are. Don’t be the type of leader people want you to be or think you should be. Be your unique, authentic self. Seek counsel when you need to, but make your own decisions based on who you are.”