Volunteering has been a way of life for 82-year-old Jane Emke. A third-generation member of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), she has been active in the organization for 52 years.
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1940, she moved to Louisville in 1967 when her husband Bert took a job as an editor with the Louisville Times newspaper. Jane graduated from the University of Louisville with a Bachelor of Arts in history in 1969 and began work as the first development director for Louisville’s public television station WKPC. She went on to similar positions at Cedar Lake Foundation and then Bridgehaven where she retired in 2002.
The former development director and fundraiser has recently turned her skills to revitalizing the NCJW’s Nearly New Shop. Opened in 1956, the 24,000 square-foot store is located in Mid-City Mall in the Highlands and sells gently used, donated items from clothing and accessories to furniture and home goods. Proceeds from the shop fund the group’s advocacy projects focused on child and family welfare.
Jane said her focus is to add volunteer staff, which she’s already started to achieve, and increase profits. She says volunteers commit to a few hours a week sorting and tagging new donations and putting them on display for sale.
What inspires you to volunteer with NCJW?
I grew up in the New Orleans chapter and really admired the women who volunteered and served in leadership. They were true role models for me. They would identify issues in the community, do a study, then raise private funds for community groups to address the problems. They were very active and made a real difference just like the group in Louisville.
What have you learned about yourself through volunteering?
I learned how important other people are to me. I have found that people in their 60s and older have lots of time on their hands and are willing to help. I have a ball with the volunteers at the shop. I’ve never known a volunteer not to make a commitment and stick with it. I know I always worked harder on my volunteer projects than when I was paid.
What advice would you give other older adults interested in volunteering?
The reason I get so much out of volunteering is it helps give meaning to my life. When I’m helping an organization, I know that in my heart I’m doing my part to help the community. You feel good about yourself because you’re doing something important. There are so many ways you can help your community.
By Kym Voorhees Raque
P.S. You may also like Off The Clock: A Plan and Purpose In Retirement.
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