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Prepared for the September 27, 2000 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper.
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In the Backyard With Lucinda Florio
<B>Lucinda Florio, former First Lady of New Jersey,
has a full plate of volunteer activities these days. She is working
with children, attending board meetings, doing committee work,
special projects, handling paperwork details, and engaging in her
favorite fundraising method: face-to-face requests for money to
a good cause.
She conducts all of these activities with enthusiasm and
according to the staff and volunteers of nonprofit organizations who
work with her. And she will share some of the lessons learned through
her volunteer experiences as the featured speaker at a luncheon
for Women In Development of Mercer County on Monday, October 2, at
noon at the Doral Forrestal in Princeton. Advance registration is
required with a payment of $30 for non-member guests who must be
by a member.
Women In Development of Mercer County is a nonprofit professional
association of women in the development field. Founded in 1993, the
organization has grown from 6 to 156 members. With annual dues of
$25, membership is open to women whose primary responsibilities
the development of resources for area nonprofits. For more information
about membership, send a letter to Women In Development, Box 55482,
Trenton 08638 or contact Judy Feldman at 609-688-0300 or via
"New Jersey has lots of opportunities for individuals to make
a difference, be productive, and use their skills," says Lucinda
Florio in a telephone interview. "We all start at different levels
with various interests. And it’s important that nonprofits nurture
that volunteer spirit and match skills with specific needs."
She and her two brothers and three sisters grew up in a family where
giving to others was modeled in small ways, such as putting money
in a Sunday School collection plate, going door to door with Trick
or Treat for UNICEF boxes at Halloween, and asking people to buy Girl
Scout cookies to support the local troop.
She was born in Lafayette, Indiana, and the family moved to
where her father worked in the shipyard making and repairing boilers
and her mother helped out with the family budget as a part-time
After four years in Philadelphia, when Lucinda was seven years old,
the family moved to Gloucester City, New Jersey.
Florio attended Gloucester County College and Glassboro State
to pursue her career ambition to become a teacher. She taught children
in preschool, first grade, and third grade.
Since her marriage to James Florio in 1988, she has been working at
her husband’s side during his political career, serving as First Lady
of New Jersey from 1990 to 1994. That is when the requests to become
involved in all sorts of volunteer organizations and charities started
to pour in. "I learned fundraising by simply doing it," she
says. "It’s tough work that requires patience and a step-by-step
process to build a committee, make contacts, and then follow through
with the plan."
Among the causes that Lucinda Florio has supported is the renovation
of Drumthwacket in Princeton. "We decided to take the reins and
get it done rather than consider it someone else’s problem," she
says, noting that when she arrived to the Governor’s mansion it was
in debt and in need of repair.
Developing her own track record of success, she has served a
role in raising funds for a building campaign at the YMCA in Metuchen
(where she and her husband reside) and also keeps in touch with the
children served by this YMCA, the area’s largest child care provider,
by reading a series of children’s books to preschoolers. Of special
note is her role as co-chair in a $2.5 million campaign for the YMCA
to work side by side with the Jewish Community Center in Metuchen.
She serves as trustee and Education Committee member at the Liberty
Science Center, where she describes herself as "the practical
voice" as a schoolteacher in a group with impressive academic
credentials. She has worked with the United Way of Middlesex County,
evaluating the effectiveness of various child care programs. And she
has recently taken a leadership role as board chair in a
organization called First Concern, which provides supportive services
for young men and women (ages 16 and up) who have had a childhood
with as many as 10 or 20 displacements through foster care and other
living arrangements. These individuals need guidance in developing
life skills to live independently in a productive and healthy way,
she explained. "We serve the most neglected age group at First
Concern," she adds, noting the strong need for stability in the
lives of these individuals who come from all over the state.
She observes that her teaching skills come in handy in approaching
her volunteer commitments. Just as a lesson plan helps a classroom
achieve an objective, people need to first gather information about
a situation and then sit down to make a plan of action.
From a volunteer perspective, Lucinda Florio has advice to development
professionals who work depends on their ability to recruit and use
volunteers with professional skills and fundraising talents:
to learn what skills each volunteer has, nurture that volunteer, and
offer flexibility for volunteers to grow.
work and give reasons why it’s worthwhile. As a fundraiser, Lucinda
knows there is a 50/50 chance that people will give a financial
when she asks them face to face. She never feels uncomfortable now
asking people for money to support a cause she believes in. Her job
is "to show people where they can put their money to good
some way with your work. For example, when people hear about their
local YMCA, their reaction may already be positively inclined when
it occurs to them, "I learned to swim at the Y."
volunteers, a personalized thank-you note or a telephone call is
appreciated. For others, a wrap-up meeting works well. The next step
for development professionals may be to ask, "Can we call upon
you again to help us?"
Lucinda Florio sees her volunteer work as a journey that allows her
to constantly learn more about her community. "One activity always
leads to something else," she says, whether it’s raising thousands
of dollars for a good cause or spending a few hours as a tutor. (In
fact, she personally treasures her volunteer work mentoring a
who needs help in math at a local library.) "Look in your back
yard," she adds. "There’s something there for you."
— Vivian Fransen
Breaking the Cycle through Collective Economics,"
is the theme of the Insiders Conference to be staged by the
Trenton African American Chamber on Saturday, September 30, from 9
a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the College of New Jersey’s Brower Student
Cost: $40 including breakfast and lunch. Call 609-393-5933.
Bishop Donald Hilliard Jr., of the Cathedral (Second Baptist
Church) in Perth Amboy gives the keynote speech, and Edith
of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Commission, is the
On the conference panels are Juanita Joyner of the Isles Youth
Build Program, Reverend Willie J. Smith, columnist for the Times
of Trenton, Andrea Schutz of the Granville Academy, Debbie
Aguiar-Velez of Sistematica Inc., Robert Matlock
Express, Henry Johnson of City News, William Brooks
the Regional Alliance for Small Contractors, Wayne Browne of
City Tech Associates, Larry Pettis of St. Francis Medical Center,
Lorraine Allen of NJ Commerce-Economic Growth Commission, and
Lesley Borges Carter of Your Health Matters Radio Program.
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