I haven’t written an interview in quite awhile but I was so inspired to do so because the person within it is so inspiring to me. It’s not so much what she says but what she actually does. This woman reaches others with her big heart, graceful words and kind spirit to create real change in our community. And we are so lucky to have her. I’d like you to please join me in learning about the fascinating Jennifer Hale and her experience as Community Leader and Advocate.
Tell me about The Greater Good of Northeast Indiana (NEI).
The Greater Good of NEI concept started out of a need that I saw in the community to help bring more awareness to the activity in the nonprofits and to help engage our community at large. Over the past two years, it has grown from a Facebook page promoting various nonprofit events/needs, to presenting multiple community events and developing partnerships with Input Fort Wayne and Current Fort Wayne which help to spread the mission of supporting our nonprofits.
What drives you? What’s your ‘why’ behind your work?
If I have an idea that I can’t shake, I have to try to run with it. It might fail gloriously, exceed expectations, or land somewhere in between, but I’ve always believed in simply trying. When it comes to the Greater Good concept, the more I took time to listen to people active within nonprofits and in the community at large, it became more and more apparent that this was a ‘need’ to fill a gap. The task itself is daunting most days, because I want to run a marathon but can only get a mile done, but its growing and that’s what keeps me going. My ‘why’ is really just trying to leave this world a little better than when I found it. I have three kids who know how passionate I am about giving back and if I can pass on anything to them it is to be an active member of any community that they are a part of – not just for the benefit of themselves, but for the benefit of others.
How do you maintain your drive with life’s ups and downs?
I’ve learned that we can do all things with faith and grace! It is a really hard lesson to learn – REALLY hard. I often used to take situations in to my own hands to achieve the results that I thought that I wanted, but I have learned to be more open and have received countless more opportunities with a shift in heart and mind. And give myself plenty of grace. I am my hardest critic and have had my own share of depression and anxiety, so when I feel like I’m not enough or doing enough, I step back, take a breath and learn to be grateful for where I am at.
What all are you in involved in at this current moment?
This year I’m structuring the business side of the organization and formalizing as a Benefit Corporation in Indiana. It’s really exciting because this is a relatively new corporate structure in Indiana, but has been gaining really positive traction on a national arena.
We’re also working on community partnerships that will bring awareness and support to Postpartum Depression and maternal mental health both of which have astonishingly high rates with little to no positive action surrounding it. It should go without saying that maternal health is critical in any healthy societal structure, so again, the need for awareness is real and I’m working on bringing more conversations to the forefront in our own community.
With a new born, how do you make time to network, run The Greater Good and manage your family?
It’s amazing how open people are to meet with me and a baby! I try to use good judgement on when and where it is appropriate, but part of where I am in my life is being a mom first and foremost and so having to share that with people at times is part of this season of life. I am grateful to have support to watch the baby as needed and while the older kiddos are at school, but I really believe that as moms we become highly specialized at multi-tasking, so I rely a lot on that super power most days.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Martin Luther King and Princess Diana were big influences for me when I was growing up. I couldn’t read enough about their own missions to create critical change in the world during their own lives. Consistently though, my most direct inspiration is my own mom. She’s 75 years old and volunteers weekly with the homeless. As long as I can remember she cheers on the underdog and had a servant leader’s heart before the concept even existed. She is led by her faith and I’m really just a product of her passion for helping others in God’s image.
What has been your biggest challenge in your goals as a community game changer?
There’s so much that I want to do and it feels like there is so little time to accomplish it. That’s where I have to give myself some grace. Every step forward is a small success building towards the bigger picture.
For anyone aspiring to step into an active role within their community, what advice do you have for them? What should their first step be?
First find out what you are passionate about, for example – women’s issues / children’s causes / homelessness / animals etc. There are so many organizations in our community that fight daily for those who are under served, so first find out where your heart is and watch the rest unfold. You can follow organizations on Facebook or just ask me through The Greater Good page ( 🙂 ) Then, take a step! If you have time to volunteer but no funds to donate, give some of your time. If you have funds to donate but no time, give some of your funds. That’s always been my own baseline when it comes to giving back. What I have learned is that any little bit helps – do not hesitate by how much or how little you may be able to give – just always give first with love and see where it leads.