Rhonda Adams does what she does because she asks herself, “If I don’t do it, who will?” Those are words that come naturally to a single mother of four.
On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this year, Adams observed the holiday with a day of service. As in previous years, she focused her efforts on continuing the history and narrative of the African-American struggle.
Over the years, Adams, a 12-year employee of Southern California Edison (SCE) in Local Public Affairs, has read excerpts from biographies about Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, among other notable figures in black history. She also volunteers at the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum to help archive books, historical manuscripts and documents.
As a young girl who observed the Civil Rights Movement from afar, serving and giving back to the community is in her blood.
“One of the things I learned early on is that programs and nonprofits aren’t necessarily in need of just money,” said Adams. “What they really need, more than anything, is you — your time and your participation.”
That’s why she served as outreach director for three years for Networkers, SCE’s African-American employee resource group. Through her leadership, she helped identify programs and nonprofits that have a shared value with the company that can benefit from both financial assistance — through grants and donations — and SCE’s extensive employee volunteer program.
Organizations like the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum, the United Negro College Fund, City Youth Exposure and the LeRoy Haynes Center have all benefited from the generosity of people like Adams and other SCE employees.
Ultimately for Adams, the service and contributions might enrich the lives of the beneficiaries, but she focuses on the enrichment for volunteers.
“The people I volunteer with, they see the fruits of their labor after the fact,” she said. “They say, ‘I’m glad I came, Rhonda.’ Even if they might have reservations about it beforehand, no one ever regrets volunteering after the fact.”
Volunteering — giving of her time and effort year-round — is important not only because she wants to give back, but because she wants to leave behind a legacy.
“My youngest son still has some things to learn about the history of the African-American journey,” she said. “But when you spend time at the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum categorizing the inventory sheets of a slave master, the blue prints of a plantation or photographs of people being whipped, those are not things you learn from textbooks.”
As Adams relays stories about the Underground Railroad or the Civil Rights Movement through her volunteer work, it soon becomes clear that black history doesn’t have to be contained to a month.
Upcoming SCE Black History Month Events:
Feb. 28, 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m., Networkers Employee Resource Group, 29th Annual Black History Month Celebration, honoring "The Civil Rights Movement," SCE headquarters in Rosemead