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Home & Hope Volunteer Profile: Jennifer Jacobson

Home & Hope Volunteer: Jennifer Jacobson

I feel like the more volunteer work I do with Home & Hope, serving people who may be quite different from me, the more I see all people as being one, with similar hopes, fears, and aspirations. Through this work, I get to practice becoming a better person while helping others to do the same. 

At Home & Hope, the help that we give to homeless families simply wouldn’t be possible without the generous gifts of time and energy that our volunteers provide. With this in mind, we’re excited to kick off our first volunteer profile as part of Home & Hope’s new blog, which was launched in early October.

This week, we feature the unstoppable Jennifer Jacobson who comes to Home & Hope through her congregation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in San Mateo. Jennifer and her family have been volunteering with Home & Hope for many years, getting to know and supporting a number of families who have come to us for help back toward self-sufficiency.

Jennifer, tell us a bit about yourself.

Jennifer: I’m a native and grew up in Walnut Creek as one of six children in a large and happy household. I left the Bay Area to get both my undergrad and graduate degrees in Provo, Utah at Brigham Young University. During my studies in nutrition science, I met my husband, who was also studying there. After several years in Utah, living and working, my husband was offered a job back in the Bay Area and we moved back to my stomping grounds in the East Bay to launch our careers and raise a family.

Eventually, I opened my own private practice as a dietician specializing in helping those with eating disorders. That was incredibly rewarding, but I realized that there just wasn’t enough time to give my two toddlers the attention they needed and have a busy practice on top of that, so I took the leap and became a full-time parent.

Share with me something about yourself that you’re working on and how you think that will impact your life once you’ve reached your goal.

Jennifer: I’ve been putting a lot of intention into seeing others for who they truly are and who they can become, not for their faults or shortcomings. I believe that everyone has the capacity for good so I strive to support people in coming into themselves and their potential. I think we all have moments of being judgmental or critical, but I look to my faith to help me see people as God would see them — with acceptance and possibility.

I feel like the more volunteer work I do with Home & Hope, serving people who may be quite different from me, the more I see all people as being one, with similar hopes, fears, and aspirations. Through this work, I get to practice becoming a better person while helping others to do the same.

How did your parents influence you ? What key lessons did you learn from them?

Jennifer: I grew up in a religious household where Christianity was the driving force in my upbringing and identity. My dad was a businessman and very pragmatic and logical. My mom stayed at home to raise all of us kids, and she was also very creative. As a musician (I play piano) and now professional photographer, I know I inherited that from her.

Both of my parents were very faithful and passed the importance of faith on to me. My mom believed in the power of prayer and I also find that through prayer, I get to have my own personal relationship with God. I’m grateful to her for teaching me that. From my dad, I learned the importance of family ties — our ancestors and what they can teach us. I feel lucky to have had such a stable home life that taught me values that I still use today.

What have been the biggest epiphanies you’ve had in your life so far: those moments of life-defining change that shaped you into the person you are today?

Jennifer: As a girl, I succumbed to an eating disorder that I struggled with for years, which is why I studied nutrition in university. Strangely, through the process of my recovery, I had a moment where I realized that I had all the wisdom I needed to heal. It was all about listening to and trusting my body to tell me what it really needed.

A healthcare provider I worked with introduced me to “intuitive eating,” which is the thought that we’re born knowing intuitively how to eat, and it’s only as we grow up that we get disconnected from those signals. This was life-changing. Learning how to trust and respect my body has overflowed into other parts of my life, like being kinder and gentler to myself. The best part is that this then overflows into how I treat others, too — with more compassion and kindness than I might have before.

What is your vision for the future?
What drew you to volunteer work — and to work with Home & Hope specifically?

Jennifer: I’d love to be a grandparent — but not for another 20 years! As I get older, I also envision myself moving more and more into being in service to others. As I’ve aged a bit, I’ve seen my values begin to distill down into what’s the most meaningful to me.

I believe that everyone is given a calling or job to do while we’re here on this Earth. Right now, mine is raising children that are kind and loving. I’m also focusing on contributing to interfaith work, which is why I love volunteering with Home & Hope. I get to work with people of many faiths as well as those who I might not otherwise have the chance to get to know so personally. That work helps me learn more about others and about myself. I’m becoming a better person through my work with Home & Hope and through supporting their guest families.

Volunteering with Home & Hope has given me a chance to do something meaningful with my family, too. It’s taught my kids that being in service to others is a noble thing. This idea that anyone can fall upon difficult times has taught them to be grateful and humble — to help others as they would like to be helped if they were ever in that position. That’s golden.

What advice would you have for someone considering volunteering but who might have reservations?

Jennifer: Sometimes, undertaking new things can be a little scary — not knowing what to expect or how to do it “right.” But like with many things, sometimes taking the first step is the hardest part and after that, things reveal themselves to be easy or rewarding well beyond any discomfort you might have started out with.

I would also say that having someone to go with helps. If you’re interested in volunteering with Home & Hope, do it — and bring along a friend! You can support each other while helping others who so desperately need it.

I just want to end with one thought: I want to urge your readers to go out and volunteer with Home & Hope today — I guarantee that it will be one of the most rewarding things that you’ll ever do.

To volunteer with Home & Hope, visit homeandhope.net/volunteer and a Home & Hope representative will reach out to you to explore how you’d like to get involved.