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May 30, 2012 / HandsOnCorps

From Wall Street to Broad Street… Changing Careers to Make a Difference

I’m not sure I can pinpoint the day or the volunteer experience that would eventually change my career path and in turn, my life.  It was a combination of opportunities that were given to me while working in the corporate world that have led me to where I am today.  After graduating college I worked in finance, and continued on that path for over six years.   My favorite days at work were volunteering in the community at company-led projects or planning volunteering events for my co-workers.  Not the typical “favorite day” of a finance professional.  So I thought, how could I do this for a living?  I found a way.  I joined AmeriCorps.

I had volunteered with the HandsOn Network (HON) and other organizations through work and in my spare time.  I enjoyed the flexibility and project varieties that HON offered.   I wanted to work for an organization that made volunteering easy but was still rewarding and impactful.  When the position of Skills-Based Volunteer Coordinator at Jersey Cares, an affiliate of HON, was presented I thought it would be the perfect fit.  I would have the opportunity to develop a program that not only made volunteering easy but allowed professionals to use their skills to help others.  I knew I would enjoy working on this project as it’s something I would have enjoyed doing as a business professional.

For Jersey Cares, requests from their nonprofit partners and an overall community need led to the idea of a Skills-Based Volunteer Program.  Before introducing this concept into the community, Jersey Cares needed to test it out.  As a pilot project, a great team from a corporate sponsor’s IT department stepped in and volunteered by setting up the Jersey Cares new computer system.  This worked out so well, that Jersey Cares knew they needed to help other nonprofits in the same predicament.  Having this program led by an AmeriCorps VISTA was the perfect way to launch the initiative.

As I complete my seventh month as the Skills-Based Volunteer Coordinator, I am happy to report that I have had success with the program.  We have organized a number of skilled volunteer projects.  The projects have ranged in time frame and skill.  We have had a Zumba instructor work with children at an after school program on an ongoing basis.  We have also had photographers volunteer at our Jersey Cares Day annual event and corporate volunteers lead financial literacy and nutrition workshops in local school.  We currently have a number of projects available as well as a number of volunteers interested in using their skills to help local organizations.

I am thankful for my past experiences through corporate and individual volunteering.  If I hadn’t had these opportunities I wouldn’t be where I am today.  I love working for such a wonderful organization and having the opportunity to create a new and exciting program.  I am so thankful that AmeriCorps and Jersey Cares has given me an opportunity to re-start my career in a meaningful and fun environment.

Rebecca Gnessin

HandsOn Corps VISTA: Jersey Cares


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