It is important now more than ever to embrace and celebrate what connects us: our resilience. This month, we’re shining a spotlight on Jennifer Zale, Associate Board member and Fundraising Co-Chair.

Read our interview with Jenny below.


You’re a member of the Resilience Associate Board and the fundraising co-chair. What inspired you to get involved?

I first became involved with Resilience as a Volunteer Medical Advocate, around January 2019 when I did my training. I was really into being an advocate, and I was happy to do that work. I’ve taken around 34 in-hospital calls so far and a lot of shifts. I had been doing that for several months, and then, later that year in May, Resilience announced that the Associate Board was developing. The Associate Board was just calling out to me. It does help when you’re on the Associate Board to have the experience doing the volunteer medical advocate work on the front lines because when you’re talking to people, trying to get them to donate or participate, they see you’re not just somebody who’s paid to fundraise. You actually are passionate about the work and doing it yourself. I’ve found that it goes a long way with fundraising. That’s how I became involved with Resilience.

You were the Chair of the Evening of Impact Silent Auction Committee for the past two years. Why is an event like Evening of Impact important to support?

I think it’s really important to attend because it’s Resilience’s biggest in-person fundraiser of the year. The speakers are really dynamic. Also, the community that’s there to meet. Sometimes there are Resilience groups that are somewhat separated, like people on the Associate Board, the people who work with Resilience, and the volunteers. It’s nice to be able to meet everyone in a space where we’re all advocating for the same thing and making connections.

For example, at another event, we ran into some volunteer medical advocates and told them about the Associate Board, and they ended up joining. Sometimes people don’t necessarily know about other parts of Resilience, so having those events where we can all mingle and merge is good for the organization. And, for us, it’s nice to have that sense of community.

I think Evening of Impact is great for a lot of reasons. It’s nice to be able to invite people you know in Chicago to an event like that so they can become introduced to the organization as well. The speakers, like I said, are always great and important, and they’re inspiring. When we do this work, especially medical advocacy, we need to be inspired. So it’s nice to have that treat once a year.

How has getting involved with Resilience impacted you?

It has impacted me in a lot of different ways. I’ve always considered myself to be a compassionate person. I think that’s what draws people to this work. But, doing this work, it definitely increases that and forces you to not only be compassionate but also to really put yourself in other people’s shoes.

In terms of being a medical advocate, sometimes you see things that you have maybe never seen before, like problems that are in the city that maybe you were aware of but didn’t experience firsthand. You learn how to really fight and advocate for someone you’ve never met. It’s a different kind of experience. You learn about problems that you know exist here, but then you see them firsthand, like the discrimination and the way certain people are treated and what goes on behind the scenes. I’ve become more aware of that.

Being a crisis counselor has helped me help other people and myself. In difficult situations, we learned how to talk to people and think about things. In the training, we learn how to try to not let it get to you so you don’t completely collapse and break down. We don’t want to go into the room crying. Even right now I can give an example. I lived in Kyiv for two years and Moscow for four. I have very close ties there, and I have friends right now who are there and posting photos of bombings outside their windows. So even dealing with a situation like this and talking to some of those friends, I noticed that the work I’ve done with Resilience as an advocate has made me better at that.

What is one memory or experience as an Associate Board member that you’re most proud of?

The moments and events that I’m most proud of are probably the work I’ve done as the silent auction chair. The first year it was kind of casual. Amy, the Resilience Director of Development, just asked a couple of people from the Associate Board to help out with it. Before I joined the Resilience Associate Board I had never really done any fundraising work, and I was interested and wanted to become good at it. We were learning as we went along. It’s really rewarding because we connect with so many different businesses owned by all different types of people, and we get to teach people about Resilience. There are people that didn’t know Resilience exists, and they get really excited when they hear from us. I get so many people who, in addition to donating to the silent auction, want to do free work for us later in the year and offer their services. It’s been really great to make those connections and spread the word about Resilience and its existence. That’s been going well, and it’s been really rewarding. Also, the revenue that it brings in because I know exactly where that goes. That’s probably my biggest accomplishment on the Associate Board so far.

What are your hopes for the future of the Resilience Associate Board? What are you looking forward to this year?

I definitely would like the Associate Board to grow. We have about 25 people. I’d like it to grow to have even more people who are really involved and are going to do the work. We hope to increase its reputation and to get a really strong group of people together who are going to be in it 100%. We talked about this at our executive committee meeting: within about four or five years we could think the Associate Board could be bringing in over $100,000 a year. I think that’s totally doable if we have the proper amount of really engaged people. We’re working on recruiting and finding the right people for the Associate Board. Not just necessarily someone who is going to donate the $500 because you can just be a donor to do that. You don’t have to be on the Associate Board to do that. So if we get a group of even 15 or 20 people who are really engaged and are going to do as much as the top five people who do the most on the board right now, we could really blow it out of the water. That’s definitely one goal that I and the Associate Board have. And we have the DEI Committee. Diversity goals are really important to me: I’m on that committee, and we definitely need to work on that increase. The DEI committee has been around for a year or so now, and we’re still developing the practices and how it’s actually going to work with our other committees. I really want to get a good procedure set up that will make sure that we examine every event to make sure it is meeting those diversity goals. Having a procedure that is going to be very uniform will help us to achieve those goals.

What’s one fun fact about you?

I speak Russian fluently, and I’ve lived in Russia for four years in Ukraine for two.

What do you want people to know about the Associate Board or Resilience that you haven’t been asked about?

I would love for people who support Resilience or even the people on our Associate Board to have a better understanding of what the medical advocates do, as well as the processes that happen after that, the services that Resilience offers. Like the trauma therapy and legal counseling and all of that because I think a lot of people don’t necessarily know about that. It’s important to know about those services because it moves people when they know that people are actually volunteering their time. Our title is Volunteer Medical Advocate. In most cases, if you don’t explicitly say it, a lot of the time people think we’re paid. The reaction is like, “Oh my gosh, why would anybody do this kind of work without getting paid?” I think when people see that there are so many of us that go into hospitals, they are moved that people are so passionate about the cause. They’re doing it because they really care about it. So I think having people understand the structure and what the volunteers do, and what the staff does after the volunteers initially meet the survivor in the hospital, is helpful.

In terms of the Associate Board, I’d like to let people know what kind of work we do, why we are doing it, and where the money is going. Because we are always looking for more members.

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