My quest for fame led me to charity work

Ruann Elassyouni began her career at Penny Appeal USA as a volunteer on a college campus in Charlotte, NC. With consistency, creative ideas, and hardwork, Ruann was able to land the job of her dreams– working with volunteers and empowering the youth to help others and make a difference. Below, Ruann discusses how her journey led to giving back and championing those in need.

Ruann is going to the
I couldn’t find a serious picture of me in a Penny Appeal shirt so here you go. 

“Hi, my name is Ruann and I’m the National Team Orange Volunteer Coordinator for Penny Appeal USA,” is usually how every conversation begins when introducing myself to others. People refer to me as the “Penny Appeal Girl.†But who is Ruann?

My journey to the nonprofit world was quiet interesting. I was always a dreamer- who believed in peace, love, and unity. I wanted to make change in the world. Why were NFL players making billions of money while people were starving across the globe?

Honestly, I believed the only way to make change in this world was by becoming rich and famous and donating all the money to charity. For some reason, it made sense at the time.

So, I moved to a city in North Carolina called Charlotte to attend the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and pursue a degree in communications and marketing. Obviously, Hollywood was the next move. Actually, no. I’m still in Charlotte, NC but I did double major in Political Science and International Studies so at least I completed 50% of the goal? Right?

But first let’s rewind, I grew up in a small town called Asheboro, NC. Home of the NC Zoo. Also home of Guillever Beck famously known for her role in Netflix’s recent top hit “YOU.” Asheboro High School. She was a Senior when I was a freshman. We had the same theatre teacher. No, I did not know her. Asheboro high was fun but I CRAVED more. I’ve always loved the city life and knew Charlotte was were I wanted to be so off to UNCC I went.

Born and raised a Muslim, I never had the opportunity to interact with a Muslim community, until moving to Charlotte that is. And so, I did just that, I got involved. I volunteered with organizations such as the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and with local mosques in the community. On Nov 2017, I received a message on the MSA girls WhatsApp group (classic) asking if anyone interested in helping with the Digital Divide program in Charlotte, NC. My little Muslim Southern Belle side responded with a enthusiastic “Yes ma’am!†And that was the beginning of my journey with Penny Appeal USA.

This is Ahmed Youssef, the guy who hired me, regretting what he did. LOL 

I started off as a volunteer who was on the board of the Charlotte, NC chapter. About a year or so in, I met with, then Development Manager, Ahmed Youssef, at the nearby Starbucks (another classic). I got the job! I started off as a contractor and worked my way up to a full-time development officer, and recently accepted my new position as National Team Orange Volunteer Coordinator.

This picture was taken at my first annual staff retreat in 2018. I know what you’re thinking. Yes, less than 20 staff members run a 5.8 million dollar organization. 

What a journey, and an honor, it has been working for an organization that not only works towards alleviating poverty domestically but internationally as well. In the 3 years I have been involved with PAUSA, I have gained so much knowledge about the NGO sector.

I have learned about the small villagers who walk 10 miles a day, back and forth, just to get access to clean water. I have learned about the widowed women who work from the dawn of the day until sunset just to provide for their families. I have learned that it is our duty to provide to those who cannot do so for themselves. But most importantly, I have learned how the smallest change can and will always make the biggest difference.

It’s very rare for an employee to have one on one interactions with the CEO of your organization where he/she motives you to be the best you, and helps guide you to where you think is best. It’s not so often you work with team members who strive to see your growth and motivate you to do better. But this rarity, this gem of why and how we work together i

So, here’s to those who have supported the growth of this organization, here’s to building strong leaders who will take on the world’s greatest challenges, here’s to painting America orange, here’s to Team Orange in 2020.