DIFFERENCE MAKERS: Volunteer is more than a responsibility for Jennifer Calery

News Photo by Alyssa Ochss Jennifer Calery is shown in this picture at the site of the new Boys and Girls Club of aAlpena.

ALPENA ­– When she was young, Jennifer Calery’s parents instilled in her a passion for volunteering through their acts of goodwill and kindness.

Now she continues to volunteer and help many people.

Calery, 40, is an active participant in many Alpena area organizations, including the Downtown Development Authority, the Boys and Girls Club of Alpena, and she is the co-founder of Feed the Need-Alpena — a group that partners with local organizations and businesses to assist people struggling with hunger.

Calery’s parents were both involved in volunteer work. Her father was the executive director of Community Action Agencies for 50 years and her mother was the executive director of Head Start for 40 years.

From there, Calery and her siblings learned to volunteer and did so as children. She’s also been a part of volunteer organizations when she lived downstate.

“As a youth with my family,” Calery said. “I’ve kind of volunteered throughout my life. I was involved when I lived downstate with some different organizations. American Cancer Society, Children’s Trust Fund and volunteering. Never got involved with as many organizations as I am living in Alpena and it’s great and I love – and it’s because we have so many wonderful nonprofit organizations here that I’m happy to be able to volunteer my time to give back where I can.”

Calery said she’s been a member of the Boys and Girls Club Board of Directors for about five or six years and currently serves as vice chair.

“Really it’s about the people, it’s about helping people,” Calery said. “I think that if I can donate my time, if I can volunteer my time and play a small role in changing one person’s life or maybe many youth through the Boys and Girls Club. You know if you can make a difference just for one person why wouldn’t I do that?”

She said she feels a responsibility to help people out and to volunteer.

“I guess I feel maybe a responsibility to do that,” Calery said. “You know I’m very grateful. I’m very blessed. I’m very lucky in my life so if I have the opportunity to give of my time in order to create opportunities for other people to help lift other people up you know when they’re in need.”

Calery and other members of the Boys and Girls Club have made many connections, and made a positive impact on club members as a result. She said members come back often, telling stories about how staff members helped them get past something or helped them improve their grades.

“That is 100 percent the role that they play, and they are also a big reason why I’m so dedicated to the Boys and Girls Club because I believe so wholeheartedly in our staff they are all the most incredible people very, very passionate, they care about what they’re doing, they care about every single one of our members,” Calery said. “They inspire me to continue to be involved.”

She is not only part of the Alpena Boys and Girls Club, but she also serves on the Michigan Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs as its president.

Feed the Need was inspired by Calery’s sister who also does similar work in her community. Her family, especially her mother and father, played a huge role in inspiring her to volunteer — something Calery encourages others to do.

“Absolutely,” Calery said. “I strongly encourage others to volunteer. I mean if people want to reach out to me and tell me where your passion is, what you’d like to be involved in, I’d be happy to connect people with one of the many, many awesome nonprofit organizations in this community because there is so many.”

Calery said one of the best parts of volunteering is the friendships she makes, which allows her to do something she loves with some of her closest friends.

For Calery, volunteering is more than just a responsibility.

“It’s very heart warming and uplifting and inspiring and motivational to be involved and playing your small role and creating impactful change and creating opportunities for others and empowering others to live a better life,” Calery said. “It’s very fulfilling. It’s very fulfilling work.”

Difference Makers is a weekly series that profiles Northeast Michigan residents who do extraordinary things to improve their communities and the lives of others in ways that include volunteering and their professional work. If you know a local difference maker, please contact Alyssa Ochss at 989-358-5680 or aochss@thealpenanews.com.


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