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May 17, 1991 - Image 54

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-05-17

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Careers of Giving


FRIDAY, MAY 17, 1991


Special to The Jewish News

obbie Blitz's excite-
ment is hard to sup-
press. She is in the
formative stages of a fledg-
ling business. And being an
entrepreneur is a new ex-
perience for the 46-year-old
former nurse.
Ten or 15 years ago, she
says she never would have
had the confidence to under-
take a start-up venture, even
with a partner.
But Mrs. Blitz is a different
person than she was back
then. She realizes now that
she has the skills and ability
to develop her new personal
services company, called
"We'll Do It."
She is looking forwa rd to
the challenge and the new
chapter in her life. Her
change in attitude came from
volunteer work.
Like thousands of her con-
temporaries, Mrs. Blitz
worked her way up through
the volunteer ranks of
various organizations, do-
nating her full time to causes.
In doing so, she says she
learned valuable business
and leadership skills without
realizing it.
Many of today's profes-
sional volunteers were on the
cusp of the women's move-
ment. So instead of feeling
the compulsion to bring home
money, they worked to better
the community and in a
sense, validate themselves,
Mrs. Blitz says.
"My generation is the one
that stayed home," says Bar-
bara Grant, 52, past presi-
dent of National Council of
Jewish Women - Greater
Detroit Section. She left the
teaching. profession to raise
children. "Nobody really
worked for a living unless
they loved it or had to."
Mrs. Grant says the train-
ing received in the volunteer
sector has paralleled women's
growth in the for-profit sector
and is equally substantive.
In many ways, in a tradi-
tionally female role of career
volunteer, these women mir-
ror their full-time working
counterparts, developing pro-
fessional skills as they climb
the volunteer ladder.
"Ours (NCJW) is a cor-
porate structure," Mrs. Grant

says. "The infrastructure has
to be corporate or NCJW
wouldn't move ahead."
In addition to professional
and leadership skills, volun-
teerism offers networking
and mentoring. But the key is
the development of tangible
skills, contacts and self-
Bobbie . Blitz most recently
served as president of the
Sinai Hospital Guild. And
after three years of running

Mrs. Grant says
the training
received in the
volunteer sector
has paralleled
women's growth
in the for-profit
sector and
is equally

board meetings, building con-
sensus, managing budgets,
handling personnel matters
and representing the hospital
in the community, Mrs: Blitz
felt she could be on a par with
any corporate chief executive
"When I accepted the Guild
presidency, a past president
told me that when I finished,
I could run General Motors.
And I laughed. But the reali-
ty of it is, that I dealt with the
same kinds of issues that the
president of any corporation
deals with."
Unlike the business world,
the top unpaid jobs usually
have a limited term. That can
leave some of the career
volunteers hanging in limbo.
When you top out, climbing
as high as you can go, what
do you do for an encore?
These women indicate the
next step is dictated by
choices of taste, interest or
need. Some continue to work
full-time in the volunteer sec-
tor. Others transition their
skills into the work force.
Some, like Mrs. Blitz, start
their own businesses.
Mrs. Grant admits the in-
fluence and prestige of her
volunteer position was hard
to give up. "Nobody is
lonelier than a past president
the day after installation. It's
like leaving any job. You
know you have to go on to

something else to fill that
void. You can't feel like you
own the job. When that hap-
pens, you have to get out of
Adds Barbara Cook, "I'm
not sure you ever have to top
out. There are so many oppor-
tunities. You can take those
same skills and use them in
an equal manner in another
volunteer capacity."
In fact, Mrs. Cook chaired
the committee that organized
the recent Israel In-
dependence Day activities in
Mrs. Cook, 47, has been
volunteering her time and
energy for 15 years. Like any
corporate executive who has
achieved a certain level of
proficiency and respect in the
field, she says, "if you're
good, it doesn't make a dif-
ference" where skills came
In Mrs. Cook's case, she
broke through a glass ceiling
by becoming the first female
president of Adat Shalom
Over the last year or two,
Mrs. Cook, a lawyer who like
many others of her genera-
tion, gave up work to raise a
family, has contemplated
entering the work force. Yet,
she doubts she would find
anything that gives her as
much satisfaction as
"Some people need to have
a paycheck .to be validated.

What really validates them is
being good and professional
at something," Mrs. Cook
After working for years as
a volunteer, Amy Brown
landed a job.
"To me, it's not a matter of,
`I've been giving away for
free all these years, now it's
time to get paid for it,' " she
"I like the benefits of the
paycheck. But that just can't
be what makes you happy
about getting up in the mor-
ning and going to work," says
Ms. Brown, director of
volunteer services at Sinai
Hospital, who left teaching
after her first child was born.
After two tours of duty as a
vice president for NCJW,
Mrs. Brown, 53, felt "the
need to make some changes.
I wanted to try something dif-
ferent, to use my talents in
new ways."
She also had to secure
employment out of financial
Along with her feelings of
relief and some letdown, Mrs.
Brown had to do some soul-
searching. "There was some
concern. 'Well, what am I go-
ing-to do? What am I? I don't
want to go back into teach-
ing. And who's going to want
me? What are they going to
see that I can do?'
"I was lacking self-
confidence. Facing the work
world, I was nervous. It was

Bobbie Blitz is
starting her own

Photo by Benyas Kaufman

skills. What












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