April is National Volunteer Month, and we’re excited to spotlight Jeniffer, one of our incredible Livestrong Coaches.

Jennifer’s inspiration to volunteer for our Y has roots in her high school experience, where she was very involved in youth programming at her Sheboygan, Wisconsin YMCA. Today, encouragement from Muskegon Y team members led Jennifer to volunteering as a coach with the Muskegon YMCA Livestrong program. “Truthfully, I really didn’t know much about the program before our conversation, but as I learned more about it, I recognized that this volunteer opportunity had truly found me.” Jennifer’s mom was a cancer survivor and the Y played a pivotal role in her overall wellness journey post-cancer treatment. “It has been so heartwarming for me to be involved in our Livestrong program. I treasure how it has allowed me to honor my mother’s memory as well as extend her enduring love and light to other cancer survivors.”

In her time volunteering as a Livestrong Coach, Jennifer has been able to witness the impact of the program on participants: “A few weeks back we did a “mid-point” check in with participants…Everyone talked about how they felt stronger, more energized, and healthier now than when they began the program 6 weeks earlier. I was especially touched by one participant who said, with tears in her eyes, “I feel like I am finally getting my life back because of this program.” Needless to say, all of us shed tears with her.”

When asked about how her services contributes to our community’s well-being, Jennifer shares a story about using our strengths to do our best: “The Nobel Peace laureate, Wangari Maathai, was fond of telling a story about a hummingbird and her animal friends who were witnesses to a devastating fire consuming their community. Overwhelmed and frightened, they felt powerless to ward off the destruction. Except for the hummingbird, that is. The tiniest of the creatures, she chose to use what she had—her beak and wings—to pick up one drop of water and drop it on the fire, repeating the act with tireless devotion. The animals laughed at her; some said she was too small to make a difference, while others said her actions were silly, meaningless, and would not have any discernible impact. In response, the hummingbird offered, “I may be small and insignificant, but I will always do the best that I can.”” Jennifer believes that when we use what we have—our strengths, experiences, and spirit to serve others “as best as we can”—we change our communities one kind action, one compassionate ear, one generous hand at a time. “I am grateful to serve alongside our Y Livestrong coaches as we encourage and empower our participants’ health and well-being, drop by drop, step by step.”

Outside of volunteering, Jennifer loves to cook and bake. She is passionate about health and wellness and enjoys experimenting with new workout routines and recipes. Her favorite workout is hiking and, along with her husband, she has done a number of National Park “bucket list” hikes. She also loves spending time with family, reading, Notre Dame women’s basketball and men’s football, the Green Bay Packers, and she is a head-over-heels crazy in love doodle dog mom. 

We’re incredibly grateful for Jennifer’s service to our Y and community. Thank you, Jennifer, for all that you do!