Book by Book: Volunteer of the Year Malissa Webber Takes Diversity to School

Malissa presents a 'Goods from the Woods' box to a second grade class. 'It was such a fun experience, and I was impressed by how quickly they made connections. I thought for sure the coffee pod and Oreos would stump them, but they were immediately shouting out "coffee and chocolate beans grow on trees!"'

It started out small: Volunteering to catalog a tiny library at her daughter’s co-op preschool after noticing the books were outdated and lacked diverse representation. One thing led to another, and five years later Malissa Webber, communications manager for Roots News and employee resource groups (ERGs), was averaging 100 hours of volunteer time annually at her kids’ current school, North Seattle French School.

“I was shocked when school staff told me my average volunteer hours,” she says. “NSFS is a small French-immersion school that relies heavily on parent volunteers. When they asked for parents to help create a library catalog, I raised my hand. For two years I worked with two other moms (and occasionally our spouses and kids) to go to school during breaks and half-days and scan every book into a database.”

Her bookish activities didn’t stop with classroom libraries. Shortly after her family joined the school in fall 2020, its DE&I committee put out a call for volunteers to lead a DE&I-focused book club for parents. Malissa took on the challenge as well, working with the committee to help select books, communicate with participating parents and host hours-long discussions.

“We know we can count on Malissa to lend a helping hand or to counsel us on DE&I issues,” says Deborah Orsini, vice chairperson of the Board at NSFS. “She is a reliable, informed and readily available resource to the entire school. Her achievements reflect well on Weyerhaeuser’s own values and identify her as a role model for other school or community programs seeking to create or bolster their DE&I programs.”

For her work around diversity, equity and inclusion in her community, Malissa was awarded a 2023 Volunteer of the Year award.

Image of Malissa taking part in her Goods from the Woods presentation, while reading the children's book

As part of her Goods from the Woods presentation, Malissa also read the children’s book 'Lucy Meets a Logger.' An author herself, Malissa comes from a very book-oriented family; her mom and best friend spent decades working in libraries, and her brother and sister-in-law both work at Barnes & Noble.


Your title is communications manager, Roots News & ERGs. Tell us about your day job.

I schedule and post daily Roots News stories, which includes tracking ideas, managing three freelance writers, editing their work, getting each story through the review process, and of course writing stories myself and coordinating with my coworkers on the Corporate Communications team for press releases and leader blogs.

I also support our seven ERGs, providing everything from event ideas to communications plans. I work closely with Ron Crear, our director of DE&I, to help connect the dots between companywide initiatives such as our 21-Day DE&I Challenge and our ERG membership. I’m also on the lead team for Empowering Women of Weyerhaeuser, E-WOW, and I recently became a member of our companywide Inclusion Council.

What motivates you to volunteer?

My oldest daughter started at NSFS in virtual pre-Kindergarten. The school went above and beyond to make her feel included over Zoom. My partner and I volunteered for pretty much anything the teachers needed to show our appreciation for them. It was all simple stuff, like cutting up paper for craft projects or doing supply runs.

I was eager to help with library work because I’ve always been passionate about books, reading and supporting diverse voices. I specifically asked for diverse books on our baby registry, which led to some interesting conversations with my extended family! The library work at NSFS offered a close-up view of the current catalog and any gaps in representation that needed to be filled with new books.

Image of Malissa presenting her $5000 Volunteer of the Year grant to the NSFS head of school.

Malissa presents her $5,000 Volunteer of the Year award grant to Jennifer Annabelle, NSFS head of school.

What are the community challenges you see that you're trying to address with your volunteer efforts?

Ensuring diverse representation. It’s so powerful to see yourself reflected on the page! I love the incredible diversity in kids’ literature now — it’s much more comprehensive than it was when I was growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s!

NSFS is very diverse — there are 23 nationalities represented by current families and staff — and that’s one of the things that attracted us to the school in the first place. The staff does a great job of celebrating all these cultures through their daily lessons, and reinforcing that diversity through books is another way to show its importance.

What’s your favorite part of volunteering?

I love how excited my daughters are to see me at school. I also like setting a good example, showing them how I’m giving back to the community.

What’ve you learned by volunteering?

How eager everyone is to help, and how excited most places are to get fresh ideas from volunteers. And there are huge opportunities to step up and make a real difference.

Image of Malissa on a tour of our EWP plant in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

Malissa tours our EWP plant in Natchitoches, Louisiana, while supporting the filming of our new company innovation video in October.

What’s next in your volunteer plans for the year ahead?

I just presented a "Goods from the Woods" educational kit to the second grade class at NSFS, which was super fun. The kids were so engaged and were flabbergasted by some of the things in the box that come from the forest! I also chaperone field trips and help with schoolwide events.

Outside of NSFS, I’m doing some local recruiting for my alma mater, Knox College in Illinois, and will probably lead my fourth 12-week parenting support group through PEPS sometime this year, too.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to give back but doesn't know how?

Citizenship is a company value for a reason. I came here from companies that claimed to value volunteer work but never gave anyone time to do it. Here, I’ve always felt supported when I ask to flex my schedule to accommodate volunteering efforts. All my volunteer work has come organically from a desire to give back to places that offered me and my family support — the PEPS groups we were in when our kids were newborns inspired me to become a PEPS group leader, and all my work with NSFS came from the ways they helped us through two years of virtual school. Once you make an initial connection, it’s easy to expand your efforts.