Written by Carole Peters and featured in the Northwest Herald

I can recall receiving a new coloring book as a little girl, and the first thing I did was page through it to find the Dot to Dot activity. With much excitement, I immediately began counting the dots and watching as the picture would unfold.

I had an opportunity to speak at the Northwest Herald’s 90 Ideas in 90 Minutes event Thursday, and I was privileged to share with the audience how making connections are so important.

Throughout my life, I have come to recognize that every interaction with every individual has the potential to be so much more. These individuals are like dots on that page in my coloring book. What I now know is that innovative leaders listen to and learn from the people around them so they can recognize the connection made and benefit from it.

I am so grateful and honored to serve the residents of McHenry County through our work at United Way. This has all been made possible because of the dots that have been connected over my lifetime.

At age 10, my father invited me to  help him sell raffle tickets. I had no idea why he would ask me to do this. All I knew is that he asked for my help, so I accepted the invitation. As I reflect on that time in my life, I am amazed at how much my passion grew for fundraising. This was, in fact, where my fundraising career began.

There are several new ideas that have developed over the past seven months as I have come on board as the new executive director of United Way of Greater McHenry County.

To my surprise, these ideas were born through connections made with people in our county. These ideas all have helped raise awareness of the United Way and effect the fundraising efforts, which in turn will help the residents in our county.

1. Social media – I have been posting pictures in real time as I have been out in the county making connections with influential community leaders, donors and agencies. It’s so fun to see how many places I have been and all the connections made. That, in turn, has created more awareness about what we are working on and working toward.

2. Day of caring – After meeting with our donors, I realized everyone wants to engage in activities to inspire more people to join us on this journey. As a result, we have asked our 30 partner agencies to submit projects that will be completed during the months of November and February. This will help our partners complete meaningful work with the help of volunteers.

3. Star 105.5 partnership – We have been fortunate to be able to work with our local radio station to reach more community members, start laying a strong foundation and share all the good work we are doing.

What I have learned as I look back on life is that all of my experiences, the positives and negatives, are like dots leading me to where I am today. These experiences provided opportunities to meet people from all walks of life. These connections with people from days, weeks, months and years before have opened doors for new opportunities to implement many new ideas.

I recently found this quote by Steve Jobs that summed up my feelings perfectly: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

So I encourage and challenge all readers to:

• Recognize that every interaction has potential to be so much more.

• Listen and learn from those around you so you can benefit from the connections made.

• Take action, be bold and implement your innovative ideas.

Know that no matter what you are doing today, there are dots connecting everywhere, and soon you’ll see the picture unfold.


• Carole Peters is the executive director of United Way of Greater McHenry County.