An inside look at JF&CS’s Tools for Leaders
JF&CS’s Tools for Leaders is an interactive six-session program that brings high potential leaders together in a hands-on learning environment. The goal of the program is to engage volunteers so they can learn about the agency’s programs, network with other like-minded individuals who value the importance of volunteerism, build leadership skills and explore a future path within the agency.
Growing up in Houston, I was most influenced by my grandparents, who took an active role volunteering and fundraising for Jewish causes throughout the Houston community. Coupled with a strong Jewish day school education at Beth Yeshurun (the largest Conservative synagogue in the U.S.), I grew up learning the importance of helping others, especially those who didn’t have the means to help themselves. Just like the many other transplants I encountered upon moving to Atlanta, I was eager to establish myself in a new city. Since my arrival here, I’ve made volunteering a priority, whether it’s been hitting up a friend for a spare Havinagala raffle prize, co-chairing a young professionals Jewish Federation event or re-building homes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina with Jewish Funds for Justice. So it was no surprise that when I received an email in January saying I had been nominated for the JF&CS’s Tools for Leaders program, I was immediately intrigued and excited to begin this new adventure and learn about an organization that provides assistance to so many people in the community—both Jews and non-Jews (a little fact I wasn’t aware of until recently).
The second session of our leadership series kicked off with an icebreaker aimed at getting participants to open up and learn more about their fellow do-gooders in the program. I was pleased to learn that for the next eight weeks, I would be in the presence of a lobbyist, the founder of a successful start-up company, a lawyer specializing in hotel and golf finance (who knew?), a TV producer, a Mahjong expert, a fashion merchandiser, an occupational therapist, a handful of Midwesterners with thick accents, a Crossfit junkie, a Zumba regular and a Blast devotee. One thing was for sure—we were going to learn a lot about the importance of volunteering with JF&CS and, more important, we were going to look good doing it!
Over the course of the program, we were tasked with writing our own personal mission statements, or brief descriptions about why we choose to volunteer and what volunteering means to us. After our icebreaker, three participants read their mission statements out loud. Immediately afterward we heard from a variety of speakers involved with the organization including the future president, Lynn Redd; the chair of the Careers Committee member, Matt Simon; and an International Services volunteer, Howard Wexler. They all offered different perspectives on how they initially got involved, their responsibilities within the organization and why they value having active volunteer roles with JF&CS.
The session ended with program participants giving a presentation on two of the agency divisions within JC&CS: Careers and International Services. They did a great job educating us about both divisions and the programs available within each. From counseling individuals transitioning between jobs to providing senior citizens with training for future employment, Career Services – Tools for Employment is an invaluable asset that impacts our community in such a positive way, especially during this hard economic time. I was also intrigued to learn that JF&CS’ International Services – Tools for New Americans division has helped more than 1,200 refugees resettle in Georgia over the last three year years, most coming from Iraq, Iran, Burma, Nepal and Somalia.
As you can probably tell, so far the program has exceeded my expectations, and I’m looking forward to the next couple of months. I can’t wait to embrace the challenges that lie ahead while hopefully meeting a few interesting people along the way.