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Front Page - Friday, October 15, 2021

Giving is a gift for Maurya-Ballard

Realtor Daisy Maurya-Ballard serves on the boards of several local nonprofits and has chaired or co-chaired numerous fundraising events. Her extensive volunteer work led to her selection as a 2021 Woman of Distinction. - Photo by David Laprad | Hamilton County Herald

Daisy Maurya-Ballard smiles as she thinks back on a gift she received.

Any number of things could have birthed her joyful expression. It could have been something nice her husband said to her, her son calling her from college in Boston or a real estate client asking her to help with an investment.

But no. In this case, the source of her smile is a gift wrapped in gratitude and stored in a nearly 20-year-old memory.

In the early 2000s, Maurya-Ballard was serving as president of the U.S. Army Soldiers and Spouses Association in Germany. To welcome the return of 10,000 soldiers from Afghanistan, she and five other women organized a massive party for the fighters and their families.

As Maurya-Ballard looked over the sea of soldiers, spouses and children, she saw smiles and tears and heard laughter and crying. And a sense of fulfillment embraced her and soaked her heart.

In the days that followed, Maurya-Ballard was awash in appreciation as people thanked her for the event, but all she could think about was the gift the soldiers and their families had given to her in return.

This is how Maurya-Ballard defines community service. It’s not charity, volunteer work or something she does to “give back,” it’s an opportunity to exchange her time, energy and talents for what she says is an even greater gift.

“It’s not always words. Sometimes, I can feel it in a hug, or see it on a person’s face,” she says. “In that moment, everything we are is stripped away and we are simply two people coming together in a sense of mutual gratitude. It’s beautiful.”

The list of Chattanooga organizations to which Maurya-Ballard has afforded her talents is extensive. She sits on several boards, including those of the YMCA of Metropolitan Chattanooga, the Women’s Fund of Greater Chattanooga, Hospice of Chattanooga, the Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute and the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera.

Instead of being a face at a table, though, Maurya-Ballard is often the hands and feet of the organization’s fundraising events, or at least one of several pairs of hands and feet.

For the Women’s Fund, she was the co-chair of Voices 2021, held this month. For Hospice of Chattanooga, she served as the co-chair of Journey in 2019 and 2020. For the Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute, she occupied the chair for Impact, held in September.

Maurya-Ballard has also had a hand in putting together fundraisers for Embracing Hope Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera.

One might say Maurya-Ballard likes to throw a party, but she actually enjoys unleashing her creativity. For example, the 2019 fundraiser for Embracing Hope, a nonprofit that advocates for mental health awareness, featured an afternoon of barbecue, blues and bluegrass at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. This allowed the public to intimately engage with the mission of the organization, she says.

“Most mental health awareness fundraisers are held in a conference room and feature a keynote speaker,” Maurya-Ballard says. “But that doesn’t allow for interaction, so there’s a hesitancy to talk about mental health awareness.”

Maurya-Ballard is drawn to a sense of mission. When she sees a group of people who are passionate about a cause rather than the existence of their organization, she has a hard time saying no.

This was the case with Hospice of Chattanooga. Maurya-Ballard’s mother had relied on hospice care during the final days of her life, so when she saw the level of care the doctors, nurses and social workers with Hospice of Chattanooga were providing their patients, she felt compelled to contribute.

“This is a group of unsung heroes. They not only care for their patients, but they also touch the lives of the family members. They hold the hands of loved ones and pray with them in their heartbreak.”

Once Maurya-Ballard has committed herself to a cause, she often dives into the deep of the pool. Once the glamour and fun of putting together the Journey fundraiser for Hospice of Chattanooga was over, for example, she volunteered as a grief camp counselor.

The experience taught her to understand the wordless vocabulary of a child who’s mourning, she says.

“Adults have learned the words they need to use to express themselves. But when grief strikes a child who’s lost a parent or a sibling, they have no words that can express what they’re feeling, so they act out. Grief camp gives children a safe and secure environment for expressing themselves.”

Maurya-Ballard learned the importance of helping others early in her life. The oldest of five daughters, she grew up in a Chattanooga home in which her parents not only welcomed and cared for extended family but also served others in the community. Their aid often took the form of warm meals prepared in their kitchen and then given to the hungry.

“Whenever there was a need, their help was instantaneous,” Maurya-Ballard recalls.

Infused with a sense of duty, Maurya-Ballard volunteered as a candy striper at Parkridge Hospital at the age of 16. She then continued to volunteer as she grew into adulthood, embraced the roles wife and mother and developed a career as a sales representative for a pharmaceutical company.

When Maurya-Ballard’s first marriage took her to Europe, she made sure her son was standing beside her as she bathed and dressed indigent children. After she returned to Chattanooga, she took him to Miller Plaza to feed the homeless. Each morning, she asked him, “How are you going to make an impact today?”

“This is why God put us on the Earth,” she explains. “To not give back in some way would be a waste of ourselves.”

During this phase of her life, there was a stretch of time when Maurya-Ballard was alone in raising her son. Although stress and tears were a part of her daily regimen, she says the pressure cooker in which she existed for years shaped her in ways that now benefit her when she’s planning a fundraiser.

“God prepared me for this work when I was a single mom,” she says, looking up at her invisible cloud of memories. “I had to be very organized. I would wash towels on Tuesday and sheets on Saturday. I would also do my grocery shopping on Saturday, and then on Sunday, I would chop up all the veggies and put them in baggies and place them in the fridge. My son always knew what he was supposed to take for lunch and what would be for dinner.

“I had to know where everything was because if I had to look for something, it took time away from something else.”

Maurya-Ballard retired from the health care industry in 2019 and joined her current husband, Matthew Ballard, in the real estate profession.

Today, she primarily serves out-of-town investors through the company she and Matthew co-founded, WillowStreet Properties Real Estate Investment & Development Group.

Maurya-Ballard’s work gives her the flexibility she needs to be able to continue to serve multiple nonprofits and local causes. Upcoming events with which she is involved include Volunteers in Medicine’s Gowns for Good (committee member), Girls Inc.’s 60th Anniversary Diamond Soiree (committee member) and Erlanger Health System Foundation’s Believe Bash (co-chair).

Even this only breaks the surface of her efforts, which also include a term as a Chamber of Commerce vice-president of membership, serving on former Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke’s Women’s Council, joining the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women’s Circle of Red and competing in the Chattanooga Kidney Foundation’s Dare to Dance competition.

There are more, but reading an exhaustive list would indeed be exhaustive. Despite that, Maurya-Ballard says she felt humbled when she learned she would be recognized as one of Chattanooga’s 2021 Women of Distinction.

The honor places Maurya-Ballard in the company of women who have made significant contributions to the Chattanooga community through their leadership, volunteerism and civic involvement, including Dr. Valerie Boaz, Sandy Brandt Chambers Dittus, Becky Fuller Hansard, Dr. Shewanee Howard-Baptiste, Donna Fitch Lawrence, Dr. Cathie Smith, Anne Marie Stone, Amy Walden and Caroline McGuire Walker.

Hearing this list, Maurya-Ballard feels humbled afresh.

“I can scarcely believe I’m in the presence of women who have done so many great things for this city,” she says. “I never would have dreamed I’d receive this honor.”

Then again, Maurya-Ballard never imaged she’d receive any of the gifts others have offered her in exchange for the time, energy and talents she’s poured into their endeavors. But her smile is there because they did.