30September

Volunteer of the Month: Lauren Harris

Volunteer of the Month: Lauren Harris


Born and raised in Houston, Lauren Harris moved to Atlanta in 1997 to attend Emory University. Shortly after graduation she began her doctorate studies at UGA in industrial/organizational psychology, and during that time she also got married. At this point, she knew a little about JF&CS because she had attended Havinagala. But, it was after her husband came home from the Community of Caring luncheon in 2006 and learning about a number of her friends’ involvement that Lauren started to become involved with the organization.

While finishing up graduate school, she went through Tools for Leaders. Soon thereafter, she had her daughter. “At the time I was home doing the ‘new mom’ thing. But I really wanted to give back to the community.” She saw a posting in the JF&CS newsletter about volunteering at the Jewish Tower facilitating a weekly art group for residents with JF&CS’ art therapists. Lauren gave this project a try and loved it! She continued volunteering there for the next two years. Although she was now a working mom and her schedule had become busier, Lauren always made sure her week was structured to allow her ample volunteer time.She soon was nominated to be on the board and eventually transitioned into a role with Counseling Services – Tools for Life because of her psychology background. For the past two years, she has chaired the Counseling, Outreach, Prevention, Education, Support (COPES) committee. She continually tries to increase Tools for Life’s exposure in the community. The results have exceeded her own expectations and brought in some fresh and creative ideas.

One night while she was lying in bed brainstorming, Lauren came up with the idea of a fundraiser for Tools for Life. Not just any fundraiser; this one would get entire families involved and teach the next generation the importance of giving back. “I was thinking about my volunteer experience at the Jewish Tower and the impact it had on the clients,” she said. “I used to bring my daughter with me, and she always loved it. Art is so important, and I have always gotten my kids’ hands dirty painting and the like. So I thought, why not have a big art festival? Not everyone is a painter, but we can create an event with something that appeals to every kid both young and old.” Lauren pitched this idea to JF&CS, and soon after, Artscape was born, with Lauren as the event chair. The inaugural event took place April 14, 2013, with more than 500 participants. It was a huge success, and plans are now underway for Artscape 2014 on February 9. Lauren, of course, is once again co-chairing this event, this time with Joel Libowsky.

“Lauren is such an asset to our division and agency,” said Peggy Kelly, Director of Clinical Services. “She is incredibly generous with her time and professional knowledge and is enthusiastic about everything she is involved in. Her optimistic attitude is contagious.” That optimism was apparent at Artscape. Lauren has said her favorite part of the day was seeing kids “smiling ear to ear.” She would like to see this continue, all while spreading awareness of JF&CS and the Tools for Life division. “There are so many people who live and work just down the street from our building and have no idea about the breadth of services and top notch clinicians and social workers we have on staff. Artscape was a true success in its first year, so hopefully we will only continue to grow the event to support the valuable services we provide for the community!”

For more information on volunteering with these programs, please contact 770.677.9448 or email volunteer@jfcs-atlanta.org.

Written by Anna Wishneff, Posted in Volunteer Services

About the Author

Anna Wishneff

Anna Wishneff

Anna Wishneff is our Marketing Associate/Content Curator. She is from Boca Raton, FL and graduated from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s degree in Interpersonal/Organizational Communication. Prior to JF&CS, Anna worked for the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, Birthright Israel NEXT and the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.