CINspirational People: Jennifer Holladay
Yesterday I was at the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI) for an event and saw a woman who always has a way of making me smile when I see her. Jennifer Holladay has worked for CABVI for more than nine years. She is the agency’s talking book and One-on-One volunteer coordinator. I first met her when CABVI was one of my public relations clients, and I last ran into her (before today) when our seats were next to each other for the Broadway show, Kinky Boots. For me, I think two of her most distinct qualities are her laugh (which she does a lot of) and her genuineness in listening to what you have to say. She just always brightens my day.
In case you are unfamiliar, CABVI provides counseling, rehabilitation, information and employment services to people of all ages in a nine county area. Through all of its programs and services, it strives to help those who are blind, visually or print impaired lead independent lives. Its One-on-One Program matches volunteers with agency clients to assist with a number of different needs such as writing checks, organizing paperwork, reading mail or other items, and labeling groceries. Jennifer said she currently has close to 200 volunteers she manages in her program.
I asked Jennifer some questions to get to know her better. Please read her answers below.
Lisa: What is the greatest part for you about your job?
Jennifer: One of my favorite parts of my job is bringing out the strengths and talents of volunteers and helping them find an opportunity that fulfills something in their hearts. For me, when volunteers and clients come to me and share stories of attending each other’s weddings or other special events in their lives that is so rewarding. I have a volunteer who comes to mind who began because she wanted to read to someone. Last year when her client passed away, she told me, she never knew that she would meet her best friend in a nursing home.
That is why I love what I do. In the end, what keeps me doing what I do is the relationships that have been built and knowing I helped in some way.
Lisa: What type of impact have you seen from your program to your clients?
Jennifer: I have seen a big impact. If someone has a huge stack of mail that has gotten backed up because it takes that person a long time to go through it all with a magnifier, and a volunteer can come in once a week for an hour, it relieves that person’s stress level. The family too benefits because then they can just be family and not have to worry about whether those tasks are being done.
Lisa: Tell us a little more about Jennifer.
Jennifer: I grew up on a farm in Boone County where we raised sheep and rabbits. I was in 4H for ten years. I have a bachelor’s degree in communications from Thomas More College and last year got my master’s degree in public administration with an emphasis in nonprofit management from Northern Kentucky University. When I am not working, I enjoying reading and getting together with friends.
2015 was an awesome year for me because I graduated from NKU and I bought my first house.
Lisa: Tell us about someone who was a positive influence on your life.
Jennifer: I’d say two of my professors in college, one from Thomas More and one from Northern Kentucky University. At Thomas More, we had a research paper to do and the search technologies were just evolving. My Kentucky history professor would not accept anything less than me doing my own research although he was always there to answer questions that I had. In my master’s program, there was a piece of software that would not work with my screenwriter. Knowing that I needed the class, my professor took the approach, ‘let’s figure this out’ and we ended up using Excel instead as a way for me to complete my work. Both of these professors had a ‘let’s figure this out’ mentality. When one way was not working for me to allow me to complete my task, then they helped to come up with another way. I have always appreciated it when people have gone out of their way to help me succeed.
I have a twin brother, Jason, who is fully sighted. My family too has always expected nothing less from me. My parents always believed there is no reason why my brother and I can’t do the same things.
Lisa: When people think of Jennifer Holladay, how would you like for them to think of you?
Jennifer: I want to be as attentive and understanding as I can be to others. I want people to think of me as someone who always does the best by them that I can.