African American Conference

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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,

organizing

special projects, handling paperwork details, and engaging in her

favorite fundraising method: face-to-face requests for money to

support

a good cause.

She conducts all of these activities with enthusiasm and

professionalism,

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

meeting

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

invited

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

include

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

E-mail: pacfjef@juno.com.

"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

Philadelphia,

where her father worked in the shipyard making and repairing boilers

and her mother helped out with the family budget as a part-time

bookkeeper.

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

University

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

significant

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

three-year-old

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:

Make it easy for others to become involved. It’s important

to learn what skills each volunteer has, nurture that volunteer, and

offer flexibility for volunteers to grow.

Be prepared to help volunteers tell the story of your

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

contribution

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

use,"

she says.

Understand the need for people to make a connection in

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."

Volunteer recognition requires an individual approach. For some

volunteers, a personalized thank-you note or a telephone call is

always

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

third-grader

who needs help in math at a local library.) "Look in your back

yard," she adds. "There’s something there for you."

— Vivian Fransen

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African American Conference

Breaking the Cycle through Collective Economics,"

is the theme of the Insiders Conference to be staged by the

Metropolitan

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

Center.

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

Savage-Jennings,

of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Commission, is the

honorary

guest.

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 of American

Express, Henry Johnson of City News, William Brooks of

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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