When the pandemic hit—and his work travel slowed—Neil Gardner knew he wanted to use his time to give back in a meaningful way. It was serendipity, he says, when he received a call from a CJP professional about the new Hineni Volunteer Network, a program that matches community members with Jewish communal organizations that need governance and advisory support.
Raising a hand to help
With his background in information technology (IT) strategy consulting, Neil was eager to connect with a Jewish organization that could use his help. Through Hineni, he was matched with Yad Chessed, a CJP partner that provides critical assistance to community members struggling with economic and food insecurity as they work toward better financial stability.
Earlier this year, Neil started advising Yad Chessed executive director Nancy Kriegel on how to best maximize a technology grant to scale the organization’s ability to serve more people in the community. He’s become a trusted consultant to Yad Chessed, and in turn, Neil has found a way to have a direct impact on the Jewish community.
“For small agencies like Yad Chessed, the opportunity to benefit from high-level expertise and experience that someone like Neil can offer is the most incredible gift,” says Nancy. “Neil’s guidance on our technology project and willingness to offer us his time enables us to stretch our resources and use our funds to carry out our mission of direct support for people in need. We are deeply grateful for his help.”
For Neil, the connection to Yad Chessed was exactly what he was looking for in this moment. “Through Hineni, I was able to get involved in a great organization and give back in a way that was special to me, where I felt like I could make a real contribution,” he says.
“This is part of my heritage”
Neil has been involved in CJP since the mid-1990s, when he and his wife, Beverlee—both natives of Montreal—settled in Sharon. The couple had been part of Montreal’s strong Jewish community and looked for the same sense of connection when they moved to Boston.
“This is part of my heritage,” says Neil. “Both my wife and I come from good Jewish families. My mother was a Holocaust survivor. I’ve been to Israel with my family. Being Jewish is an important connection to me, so when I think of giving back, CJP is top of mind. It’s not the only place that I contribute to—but it’s always the first place.”
The couple has been a longtime supporter of CJP, and Hineni has now given Neil another way give back.
It may take a little patience to find the right match, he says, but it’s worth it to find a way to use one’s skills to help meet the community’s needs.
“I’ve read over and over again that people who volunteer get back as much as they give,” he says. “We’re all looking for meaning in life. We all want to be happy and fulfilled—and Hineni is a great way to do just that.”