I have always loved this quote from Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
It is a question Jenny Berg asked herself; and the answer she came up with has lead her on a journey of empowering those whose work and missions are enhancing communities and lives throughout our region.
Jenny is the executive director of the Leadership Council, an organization that helps human services executives of non-profit organizations to strengthen their leaders, their relationships, their impact and ultimately the greater community.
Prior to her current position, she served a two-year role as president of the Board for Impact 100, a women’s grant making organization founded in Cincinnati in 2001 which has awarded over $3.2 M back into our community through grants of at least $100,000. She returned as a board member this year after serving on the board 2006-2012. She is also treasurer of the National Board of the Women’s Collective Giving Network, an association which supports the creation, development, and expansion of women’s collective giving nationwide.
Jenny also currently serves as treasurer of the board of Women Helping Women; and on the Advisory Board of Flywheel Cincinnati, the Advisory Council for Xavier Universities MBA Private Interests & the Public Good Program, and the Pastoral Council Advisory Board of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. In the past she served on the board, and as board chair of Tender Mercies & Ursuline Academy, and she is an alumni of the Leadership Cincinnati Class #35, serving as co-chair of the Securing the Future Conference.
Please learn more about Jenny below.
Lisa: You have accomplished so much with your drive to enhance our local charities. Where does that passion come from?
Jenny: I had early exposure to philanthropy and giving back from my parents. My father served on a number of boards, and was always helping out with his time, talent and treasure. Even though I didn’t really understand what it was all about, I knew that he was helping people. And my mother always supported him in his work and was involved in quiet ways.
As an adult, I have always looked for opportunities to give back. During my term serving on the board of Tender Mercies, going through the grant process with Impact 100 (Tender Mercies received a $184,000 grant from the organization) opened my eyes to what other nonprofits are doing. I wanted to lend my expertise there, and as I became more and more involved, it was becoming clearn that this is where I wanted to be spending my time.
Lisa: What is some of the best advice your parents’ gave you?
Jenny: They instilled in me the philosophy, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected’ philosophy. They taught me that it is our job to give back to our community and leave it a better place than we found it.
Lisa: Have any of your children followed in your path?
Jenny: My middle daughter, Emily Schmidt, is also a member of Impact 100 and volunteers in helping to share their message through social media.
Lisa: What is some advice that you give others?
Jenny: I encourage people that it is never too late or too early to pursue your dreams. There is always an opportunity to reinvent yourself. Sometimes it is good to take a break from what you are doing and reassess to see if there are other opportunities for you. Oh yes, and always give back.
I am so very proud of Andrea Francisco, a recent Indian Hill High School graduate who has been interning with me this school year; and I am grateful for the opportunity to get to know her and all of her abilities. She is no doubt going to be going on to great things. Before then she took a few minutes to share how the experience has helped her grow.
written by Andrea Francisco
Over the past year, I have learned some important lessons on life that I want to share with you all. From my experience writing at Good Things Going Around to having a blast finishing my fourteenth year at the Indian Hill, I have had a wonderful year, perhaps my best yet, with many lessons learned along the way.
Being Grateful and the Importance of Giving Back
In the past, I always took all of my blessings for granted, and never fully appreciated the scope of how lucky I am. I live in a free country, go to an excellent school, and have little hardships compared to others. However, this does not mean that I should sit back and relax: because I have been given so much, I believe that I should give back even more. This sounded overwhelming to me at first, but I am now convinced that this is the meaning of life: to lift up and help others. Also, I am inspired by this quote from the French writer and poet Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “When you give yourself, you receive more than you give.” In other words, when you give back to others even a little bit, the joy you have inspired in them will be reflected back to you, and you will have more joy than what you started out with.
Being Joyful and Sharing With Others
The power of sharing stories and experiences with others is that it is incredibly moving; just think about the countless lives that are touched everyday by the stories in Good Things Going Around alone. Without sharing, we would be unable to connect with each other, particularly strangers whom we might be tempted to judge, in meaningful ways. Sharing improves trust and understanding between different and sometimes conflicting groups or individuals. Furthermore, I have learned that it is important to be joyful in sharing, as that joy can touch the lives of others in ways I can’t imagine. I have found that the saying “Be the change you want to see in the world” is really true, because when I am more joyful the people around me tend to be the same. For instance, I notice that when I smile around others they tend to smile back also. It’s incredibly empowering to think that if I choose so, I can influence the people around me to be joyful if I show joyfulness myself.
Balancing Life and Prioritizing
The art of balancing life is an important lesson that I have learned this year, as it is the first year in my young adult life I have felt truly balanced. Some years I would be lazier and procrastinate, while other years I would spend too much time studying and working. However, this year I have found a happy medium between the work-life balance, and part of this is because I learned to spend more time working on the things that make me more happy and fulfilled. Yes, school and work are important, and you should work hard, but always remember to find time to do the things that make you happy. In my case this includes helping others, exercising, writing, making art, cooking, and spending time with friends.
People are Truly Amazing
I am actually shocked at how amazing people are! I never knew the world had so many talented, happy, and strong people, especially in the greater Cincinnati area, previous to starting my internship at Good Things Going Around. The ReelAbilities Film festival was definitely the pinnacle of the newfound amazement I have for people with disabilities. Watching the different film trailers made me laugh and cry, and allowed me to connect with people that have disabilities in ways I never imagined. I saw the film called “Stand Clear of the Closing Doors”, a drama film about a boy with autism, Ricky, who lives in Queens and hides in the subway with Hurricane Sandy approaching, all while his family desperately searches for him. In addition, the photography work done by Rick Guidotti in his program Positive Exposure, which exposed the true beauty of those with genetic, physical, and behavioral differences, such as albinism or autism, was a real eye-opener. I don’t know a lot of people with these kinds of differences personally, so being able to see how beautiful they are in reality rather than how society tells us to think of them is really enlightening. It’s made me really realize that just because someone looks or acts different from most people does not make them inadequate or inferior, as society might lead us to think. I once heard a quote about autism from Paul Collins saying, “Autists are the ultimate square pegs, and the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that the hammering is hard work. It’s that you’re destroying the peg.” I think this can also apply to anyone that is different in some way. It teaches society that we need to stop trying to mold everyone into perfect round pegs, and instead let people be as they are, imperfect, but still striving to do their best, which is all that matters.
How special it was this past week to be at the Anderson Township Target store. A wonderful act of kindness. Over 350 children & adults were shopping with nearly $8000 donated by students of Wilson Elementary, Ayer Elementary and Nagel Middle School. They were purchasing items on ‘wish lists’ of over 130 families in need who are working to strengthen their relationships and their lives with the help of Beech Acres Parenting Center (BAPC). Next week over 250 volunteers will help wrap all of those gifts. Beech Acres Parenting Center is a Cincinnati nonprofit that supports parents and caregivers in the most challenging and important job of their lives: raising children today who are able to thrive as capable, contributing, caring adults tomorrow.
I’ll post photos of the gift wrapping next week.
The committee that organized this huge task:
(l to r)
Jennifer Claudy, BAPC development services officer; Alison Bushman, BAPC board member; Missy Meurer, chair of BAPC Adopt-a-Family Committee; Patrick Nugent, BAPC vice president for development; Kim Koelle, BAPC Adopt-a-Family volunteer; Jen Schlosser, BAPC Adopt-a-Family volunteer and school coordinator
Such a great project. Repair Affair is People Working Cooperatively’s (PWC) annual spring volunteer event, providing home repairs and modifications that enable low-income, elderly and residents with disabilities to remain safely in their homes. For a day individuals, businesses and community groups help a PWC client (with supervision from a trained professional) with home repairs that would otherwise be unaffordable.
Our community is so giving that this year 800 people signed up to help 135 PWC clients. In fact an extra day had to be added to accommodate everybody’s generosity.
Repair Affair was developed by People Working Cooperatively in 1983 as a free outreach program to help homeowners who are often the most vulnerable to keep their homes safe and habitable. Presented by Home Depot and sponsored by the City of Cincinnati, the event was held across the Tri-State in greater Cincinnati, northern Kentucky and Indiana.
Would you like to help? PWC also has a fall event called Prepare Affair where volunteers will help people with services from raking leaves to cleaning gutters and other small winter preparation tasks.
Working with the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati, I am so fortunate to be continually inspired by the actions of those with whom I work and get to know. Lois Fischer is the office manager of the Clippard Family YMCA. She is someone with a huge heart and a passion for kids.
You can imagine the devastation for her – and her family – about five years ago when they tragically lost Andrew far too soon. Still in high school, Andrew loved life. He loved to learn and to share, to explore and to experience. All of those things he did through camp…
And so, through camp, Lois and her family want to carry on Andrew’s legacy. They created Andrew’s Kids Scholarship Fund to give kids in their area whose families otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it, those life changing moments at YMCA Camp Ernst. This year with the help of the YMCA, family and friends, they raised enough to provide 14 children with scholarships. I was there on the night that Lois handed on the certificates.
Below is a group photo (of those who could be there) and a video I created about it.