Recognizing Our Volunteers:
By Barbara Taylor
In honor of National Volunteer Appreciation week, I was asked to interview Jenny Waggoner, President of the California League of Women Voters. Since Jenny was a youngster she has always carved out a portion of her busy life for her passion, helping others.
Although she has been working since she was 12, she has always juggled her active lifestyle with her volunteer work and has given both her personal best.
Jenny was raised in the Seattle, Washington area, and is the oldest in a large family. One of her proudest achievements has been her involvement in helping to raise two of her younger siblings. Ever since childhood, the majority of Jenny’s role models have been women. Mrs. Glover, an official at her school, was very influential to Jenny. She was an African-American school official who was kind and supportive to all the children in the school and her leadership style became a model for Jenny.
Her college experiences in both California and Edinburgh, Scotland, were also instrumental in helping Jenny find her interests. While studying in Edinburgh, there was a movement toward devolution, and many of the Scots voted for their own parliament and it passed. Jenny got to see some of the implementation, too. She hopes to go back this September for the vote on full separation.
Foreign travel has given Jenny a perspective on life in the United States and how fortunate we are to be raised in a country where civil war on our soil is not something that current generations have ever experienced. She has seen first hand how countries like Croatia, Cambodia and the Ukraine have been hurt by internal conflict.
Although Jenny was born in 1972 she has still experienced discrimination in the workplace. This has given her concern for women graduating from college today. She hopes they won’t face the same discrimination, both in pay and sexual harassment in the workplace.
When Jenny first moved to California, she was surprised at the lack of nonpartisan groups. She observed that the Department of Elections had such a rapid turnover that there weren’t any good nonpartisan voter guides. In a search for an organization to dedicate her time she chose the League of Women Voters, because they filled her criteria. When she first volunteered for the League, she was working full time as a consultant, in addition to her time spent on the League. Three years ago upon becoming President of the California League she continued to devote about 40 hours per week to the League, but cut her consulting work back to 20 hours. Since Jenny had worked two full time jobs while in college,this was de rigeur for her.
Since Jenny began traveling the state of California, she has experienced some eye opening revelations. Due to the structure of the League, there is much discretion and independence among the Local Leagues. Local Leagues have therefore been able to localize issues and become more effective. One of Jenny’s speculations about the future is that these local leagues might be able to give up their independent nonprofit status and operate as committees of the regional, state or national Leagues. This might eliminate much of the crippling bureaucratic paperwork, and time would be better spent on League objectives.
Her current goal is to give about 10 hours weekly for League business and that way her successor can look forward to a more reasonable future role. She also believes that the League needs to have more paid staff, part-time employees, fellows and interns and widen its appeal to volunteers and other participants.
In addition, Jenny is very proud that the League has reached out to non profit professional forums and affiliated organizations, and has partnerships with the O.W.L. (Older Women Voters), as well as the Junior League. Since women have greater flexibility today and can pick and choose among non profits, it is vital to make the League an organization which will draw a wide variety of participants.
We are extremely grateful to Jenny for her work in technology, communications, database and membership, among other areas. We are very fortunate to have a committed, giving and talented leader in Jenny Waggoner, and it has been my distinct pleasure to get to know her through my interview.
Kudos, Jenny, and all our volunteers!
Article By: Barbara Taylor
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