Debbie Veech finds connection to community with finance job
Some people might say a 39-year accounting career doesn’t sound exciting. But according to Debbie Veech, a leader in the Finance Department for The Salvation Army’s Kentucky/Tennessee Divisional Headquarters, they’d be wrong.
“I love every second of it. I really do,” Veech said. She loves it because she’s found the connection between the value her job provides to her community and to her own life.
For Veech, answering a help-wanted advertisement in the Louisville newspaper in late April 1978 led to a dream job, one in which she feels privileged to be part of a team that helps single parents (like her mom), people facing a tragedy (like her family did when she was 12 years old) and people caring for loved ones with illnesses (like she faced when her beloved mother battled Alzheimer’s Disease).
“I started on May 1st, 1978. I just hit 39 years. It’s gone way too quick,” Veech said.
When it all began, she was a new graduate of the two-year accounting degree program at the University of Kentucky. Working with numbers appealed to her, she said, because when she sees a problem, she automatically thinks, “How do I solve it?”
“I was looking for a job, and there was a blind ad in the newspaper. I mailed my resume. A few days later, I got a call from Major Everett Leonard. He said, ‘I’m with The Salvation Army.’ I thought at first, he wanted a donation. Then he explained he had received my resume and wanted to interview me. On that Friday, I interviewed. I started to work the next Monday.”
Staying with The Salvation Army for so many years was never a plan. Perhaps it was divinely mastered, she suggests.
“For me, every time I came to a point in my life where I thought I would need to leave for better pay because I had a child and needed to factor in the cost of child care, there would be a job opportunity within The Salvation Army to be hired into a higher paying job,” she said.
For each child, Chris and Stephanie, both now adults, this happened, as did the inevitable juggling required with motherhood and employment. “As a young mother, their understanding treatment of my circumstances built a lot of loyalty within me for The Salvation Army.”
Talking with Veech, it becomes obvious that her positive attitude also plays a role in her finding job satisfaction. “I’ve had 12 different bosses over the years. It’s like starting a new job every time. The way I do my job is the result of every Divisional Financial Secretary I have worked with. The influence of every one of them has helped me. For example, Major George Hoosier encouraged me to go back to school and get my bachelor’s degree in order to advance my career. Really, it was more than advice, he needled me to do it,” she recalled with a laugh of fond remembrance.
So, in 1990, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Accountancy from the University of Louisville while steadfastly working for The Salvation Army and raising her two children with her high school sweetheart/husband, Ray Veech.
“My husband and I have been married 41 years. We belong to Shively Christian Church in Louisville. Our parents belonged to the church, too. My mom, Daphne Perkins, was a war bride and came here after World War II. She’s from Australia. My dad was killed in a car accident when I was 12 years old. She raised me and my younger sister by herself after he died,” Veech said.
The death of her father was an earth-shattering experience for the pre-teen. Because she has known hardship in her own life and watched how her mother struggled alone, she feels a deep connection and responsibility to the people she serves through her work with The Salvation Army.
“Something most people don’t know about me is that I was raised in a trailer court. We didn’t know we were poor, but we must have been. But we never felt poor. We always had food, clothing and shelter. I had a great mom who raised us to believe we could do and be anything we wanted to do and be,” Veech said.
This advice is something she took to heart and passes on to others in her life, including the five employees she supervises at the divisional office and the others she oversees and assists in about 30 local units.
“The best part about working here is that they listen to us. We have tons of guidelines, and there is nothing more important than watching how the donor’s money is used. We are very much a team. If we can help people with keeping food and shelter, then they can focus on the larger things in their lives, like their faith, their family and getting a job,” Veech said.
“We don’t do much social services out of our office, but in the Finance Department, we are doing all the administrative work to allow the employees in that area to have time with the people needing social services. We remind ourselves while we are doing the accountancy work that we are a team at The Salvation Army,” Veech said.
The finance director says her second career choice would have been teaching. She feels fortunate that her job with The Salvation Army lets her live this part of her career dream, too.
“I like to think I am teaching while I’m working with the units in the field throughout the KT Division. I tell everyone always tell the truth. If you have a mess up, we can always fix it. We have some who have come here from the corporate world, and they wouldn’t go back for anything,” Veech said.
The lifelong Louisville resident looks back on her long career with The Salvation Army with no regrets, much satisfaction and her sights set on many more years of service to her community. She also reflects on her mother as she thinks of Mother’s Day and about her faith.
“We lost Mom to Alzheimer’s six years ago. We cried and laughed our way through it,” she explained as she reminisced about her final years with her mother and about the joys she has experienced as a mother herself and as a grandmother to grandson, Kylar.
“My faith is everything. Like everybody, there are days when I get frustrated and then I read a devotional a friend has sent. Then it reminds me who’s really in control, and it’s not me. When you can relinquish that control, everything is easier,” Veech said.
Working at a job you love helps, too. “I was fortunate to fall into a job I really love,” she said as she thought back to the answered blind ad 39 years ago and to how intertwined faith and answered prayers can be.