Meet Jennifer Helgeson, 2019 Most Admired Woman — Community / NonProfit
President & CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana
Family: Husband Rodney; children Tyler, Connor, and Jacob
Area of town: Stony Brook
Jennifer Helgeson brought her experience in starting a foster care and adoption program as well as working in residential treatment when she became president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana. Over the years, she has worked with colleagues to grow the nonprofit organization from three clubs serving 1,500 children to eight clubs serving 4,300 children. She remains as passionate about helping people as she was when she first began her career.
How did your childhood influence your career?
My parents were always involved in giving back. I remember being at different church and school functions, and they would have all of us (I have two siblings) giving back in childcare services. I think that helped plant the seed on working with kids because I really enjoyed it.
What was your first impression of Boys & Girls Clubs Kentuckiana?
I met with several board members and thought, “These people are pretty amazing,” and then I met with staff members. They had an incredible team. It wasn’t until I walked into one of the clubs…that sealed the deal. These kids did not know who I was, but they definitely wanted me to know who they represented, both their communities and the club. They were very proud of their club.
What are the challenges of your job?
The most challenging is being able to leave work at work when I go home. I know the challenges and circumstances our kids face, and when we close, those resources are not available. The other challenge is that while we’re doing such fantastic work serving more than 4,000 kids in our community, there are thousands and thousands of other kids who could utilize and benefit from our services. Thinking about how we grow in a way that is sustainable is always on the organization’s agenda.
How do you relax?
That is challenging. There’s always more to do. I have to work at relaxing. In the evenings, we still try to have family dinners. I like to watch TV, movies, and read. We just finished Homeland.
Are there family dinners your kids look forward to?
I’m not a good cook. My husband is definitely the cook, but I can make a good pie.
What is your Superwoman skill?
I think my power is being a connector. I truly care, and I enjoy learning about people. Being able to connect people with where their passion lies is one of my strengths.
What adventure is on your bucket list?
We are going on a river cruise into Germany. That has been on our bucket list, and my parents’ as well. They will be going, too.
What verb describes you?
What special interest do you have that might surprise people?
We rescue Airedales. We had four, but at this point, we have one Airedale and one that is a mixed breed.
We met with the local volunteer here for Airedales and fell in love with the breed. They have such a great personality. They’ve brought so much joy to our home.
What restaurants do you especially like?
Congratulate Jennifer and the other winners in person at our 2019 Most Admired Woman event at The Olmsted on June 25. Purchase your tickets here.
P.S. The Boys and Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana will be opening their ninth club site. The official grand opening will be at the W.E.B. DuBois Academy in August of 2019. The Boys and Girls Clubs also served a record number of youth last year, reaching over 4,300 members.