Jesse Solomon is the Director of Programs for the Woodlands Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of children and adults with disabilities and chronic illness. The Woodlands offers overnight and day programs at their 52-acre site in Wexford. Jesse volunteers with the Special Olympics, Exceptional Adventures, Get Involved! Inc., and the Muscular Sclerosis Association. In addition, she is a member of the #412Project which has the goal of giving exposure to local amateur photographers.
Years in the Pittsburgh area: I was born and raised in Pittsburgh!
What was your first job?
My first job was teaching was as an Autism Support teacher for Mt. Lebanon School District.
How were you drawn to nonprofit work?
After high school I served as a Corps Member in AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) for the United States. AmeriCorps NCCC strengthens communities and develops leaders through direct, team-based national and community service. In partnership with nonprofits—secular and faith-based—local municipalities, state governments, federal government, national and state parks, Indian tribes, and schools, members complete service projects throughout the region they are assigned. This experience was instrumental to introducing me to the nonprofit sector.
What is the first thing you do each day?
Walk my 2 dogs, a Pug and a Boston terrier.
What keeps you motivated?
The reality that I am living my dream is the biggest motivator for me. Running my own camp for individuals with disabilities has been the legacy I have always wanted to leave, and I get that opportunity every day with the people I work with. The Woodlands is a second home to our campers, our staff and volunteers. Knowing this makes coming to work an absolute privilege, even on the toughest days.
What are you reading?
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
What is your go-to time-saving/productivity hack?
Every evening when I leave the office, I prepare my desk with documents or tasks for the next day. This way, when I arrive in the morning, I just work my way through my pile.
What major issue or trend is currently affecting your corner of the nonprofit sector?
There is a lot of attention on disability rights and the right to work occurring in the communities and in press right now. The 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebrations that are occurring this year have put a spotlight on the positive direction our society is taking. However, we have a long way to go. In my opinion, many people want to join the conversation, make a difference and get involved. Consequently, they are seeking opportunities to work or volunteer with organizations like The Woodlands.
What is one goal that you hope to accomplish in 2015?
I’d like to join a Board of Directors in the nonprofit sector that focuses on community, specifically around youth leadership and development.
What’s coming up at The Woodlands?
In preparation for the holiday season, the Woodlands holds the Rum Cake Sale starting in October and running through December. Last year The Woodlands had 13 volunteer groups come to bake cakes in support of the Rum Cake Sale.
The Rum Cake Sale was founded in 2004 by Dr. Kamthorn Sukarochana, or “Dr. Kam” as he is known by friends and Woodlands colleagues. His cooking talents inspired the charitable sale, which has grown in popularity since its inception 11 years ago. To date it has raised over $50,000 for the Woodlands programs. For more information visit www.MyWoodlands.org