Entrepreneur SEEN

Shiela Jones

April 30, 2015

President-Elect, Junior League of Birmingham

Through pure man hours, or in this case, women hours, one local charity is making its efforts count in the Birmingham area. This year alone, the Junior League of Birmingham (JLB) is donating approximately 20,000 volunteer hours to the area, along with $220,000. This local league develops, implements and supports initiatives in education, financial stability, health and safety, and crisis intervention.

The JLB, once known as the pearls-and-white-gloves nonprofit of wealthy, stay-at-home, suburban women, has changed and grown since it began more than 60 years ago. Shiela Jones will take hold of the JLB reins as its 51st president on July 1. At the same time, the St. Clair Shores resident continues her job as the development manager at Fathead LLC.

How does volunteer work enhance your career?

I hold two different positions that certainly enhance one other. My position at Fathead is what I do to maintain my life. I am responsible for the day-to-day managing of our external website, www.fathead.com.

As president of JLB, I manage a sea of volunteers, quite different from managing employees. I joined JLB six years ago. After learning the ins and outs of the organization, I volunteered to work on the website, updating and editing information. After a short time, the current JLB website manager finally said why don’t you take it over? I did. During my next two years, I was exposed to a different world of managing social media, how it works, and became familiar with the IT terminology of today’s world. That experience and information directly related to my current work at Fathead.

What issues will the JLB focus on this year? 

Michigan is the second-largest state in human trafficking. We’ve partnered with Michigan’s Theresa Flores, a sex-trafficking survivor, and her S.O.A.P. (Save our Adolescent from Prostitution) program, a hands-on outreach to fight sex trafficking during large events such as the Auto Show and Super Bowl. Through this initiative, our volunteers deliver bars of soap, each wrapped with a red band printed with the National Human Trafficking hotline number, 888-373-7888.

Theresa feels if this were available, it would have saved her because the only time her captors allowed her to be alone was in the bathroom. Working with Detroit’s Lamar Advertising, we have a billboard campaign throughout Detroit featuring the hotline phone number. We work with local government officials and lobbyists to combat this crime.

Another area of our work is children’s health. We started a Kids-in-the-Kitchen program for first- to third-graders that includes teaching healthy eating habits, exhibits in school, exercise such as hula hooping and Zumba. And new this year is our junior chef program that gets kids involved in meal preparation.

Of all the charities, why JLB? 

I found like-minded women who want to better themselves, who want to learn and who want to better their community. They have taught me how to volunteer, not just through my time, pure hours, but how to make a difference in a business arena. This really is a business that is totally run by women, by volunteers.

While JLB is centered on women helping other women, it’s really about developing the potential of women. I have garnered excellent skills that directly relate to other organizations. I’ve taken the skills I’ve learned here to other charities such as the Judson Center, which provides human services for those with autism, mental health issues, provides foster care and works with adults with disabilities.

The best part of you that you share? 

I am a visionary, forward thinking. I have the ability to look at the big picture. As with my work on the JLB website, I worked on the day-to-day aspect, but my focus was getting it up-to-date. I work to influence others to see what we are as a whole.

What do you want your family and friends to know about you? 

I recently found a paper I wrote years ago while in college about my philosophy of life. It said, “Life is beyond myself, always do whatever you can to help others.” I am happy that I still think and act this way. I will do anything I can to help others.
What is something most people don’t know about you? 

I love to sing. While at Spring Arbor College, I was a music minor and sang for weddings. Once, I sang backup for a Neil Diamond impersonator appearing at Jackson Community College. NS

For information about the Junior League of Birmingham, visit www.jlbham.org or call (248) 203-9841.

— Interviewed by Ellen Rogers


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