People of Prominence

Amber T. Harris is the Executive Director of SPARK (Share Peace and Rekindle Kindness, Inc.) which designs and manages community service experiences in order to help our neighbors in need and spread kindness to all.   

Tell us about your formative years, where were they spent? Was community service important to you from early on?

I grew up in Floyd, VA. Floyd is a small town, and embracing community is key to how life works there. Supporting neighbors and serving one another is a natural rhythm to growing up in such an intimate setting nestled in the blue ridge mountains. Community service became part of my heartbeat as a teenager. I worked to embrace a posture of being present and holding people close when they were experiencing harder times and then celebrating together when joy came. 

What was the ultimate catalyst that led you to this place of service?

I enjoy being creative. The catalyst was when I realized I could be creative and emphasize partnership and collaboration with designing hands-on service-learning opportunities. Short-term service experiences have always been full of inspiring experiences for me. Service experiences that recharge and are full of momentum for serving others and creating a posture of meeting people where they are in life.

What does SPARK stand for, and what is its ultimate mission?

Share Peace and Rekindle Kindness

SPARK designs and manages community service opportunities for groups in order to help our neighbors in need and spread kindness to all. This happens through partnering with local organizations and sacred spaces to fan a community’s flame by serving and meeting every person where they are.

Speak to your interpretation of the word “faith” and how it is woven into your work.

I’m an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. I don’t always get to say that, and I’m at peace with that. My work with SPARK is about doing. However, doing requires listening well while inspiring others to also listen more. Faith is trusting a higher power is working for our good and our peace. For me, this higher power is God. I live out my faith through serving alongside all people, embracing the fullness of who we’re all created to be, as well as inviting others to experience how joyful a lifestyle of service together can be. 

What is the one thing you want the readership to know about your organization?

At the foundation of SPARK’s work, we want to honor and sustain partnerships with organizations, churches, neighborhoods and community members doing pivotal work. SPARK wants to be known for listening well. Service “projects” can often be seen as an experience for those who “have much” for folks who “have little.” We want to change the conversation to be around service with rather than service for. We’re trying to change this conversation by delving into service-learning, sharing the reasons for serving and the narratives and truths of why the needs exist. Service-learning is incredible, but it can be hard for volunteers who are eager to “do good.” The more we know about the systems, knowing the names of neighbors we’re serving and the reasons can be tough. One day we may be creating postcards for Senior Services’ Meals on Wheels program, and the next day we’re building something with hammers and nails. 

What can people do today to get involved in the community?

We mostly work with groups because we believe that when a team, business/corporation, neighborhood, class, etc. serves, they grow stronger while serving alongside one another. This process is something we’re proud. Designing an opportunity to serve while handling the logistics and collaborative elements so that a group can gain strength and grow in intentionality is one step toward strengthening the community as a whole. Some of our year-round initiatives that are always available for individuals and groups to sign-up for are through working with the Community Coat Closet that SPARK sponsors; serving at our after school program at Peacehaven Mobile Home Park; and through serving with our Pearl Program working on furniture to help neighbors transitioning into their new homes. Folks can always reach out to us to design a project unrelated to these initiatives for their small or large group. We listen to the passions and interests of the group and then work to design a project through community partnerships and current needs. We also ask questions surrounding important things to know about the group like if the group needs to stay at their office to serve rather than be out and about. Believe it or not, there are incredible hands-on projects that can be done anywhere that serve community needs. 

Who do you nominate as a Person of Prominence and why?

Linda Dark with Odd Fellows Cemetery. Linda is kind and she is determined. She is incredible to work with, and it is so clear when you’re with her that she wants the history, present and future of Odd Fellows Cemetery to be honored through knowing more and serving on-site to experience this history in our community.



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