Jes—our August 2021 “Volunteer of the Month”–recalls that sometime between 2006 and 2010 she was part Rock Harbor Church’s holiday meal preparation for central Santa Ana. She not only cooked, but also delivered the meal to a KidWorks family and enjoyed the feast with them. However, Jes hadn’t heard of KidWorks up to that point.

“I enjoyed a wonderful conversation with the family,” Jes says. “I didn’t realize that KidWorks was behind that event until years later when a work colleague and I met with Lisa Gels (Associate Director of Development) for a tour of KidWorks. At that point, I recognized the Santa Ana neighborhood where we’d delivered the Thanksgiving dinner as well as the KidWorks Dan Donahue Center where the event coordination took place.” 

Jes is an employee benefits broker at Bolton, a full-service insurance broker based in California that handles the employee benefits, property and casualty and risk management needs for thousands of clients across the globe. 

She describes her duties at Bolton as “offering creative and comprehensive solutions that help organizations enrich their employee experience, support a strong employer brand and reinforce their culture.”

Jes’ connection with KidWorks really took root after her meeting with Lisa. In 2011, a company Jes had worked for prior to Bolton was interested in hosting a golf tournament to support a non-profit. As it turns out, KidWorks had just decided to start planning for our first-ever KidWorks Golf Classic.

“My colleague and employee, Vanessa Oddo, and I did a lot of Google searching for nearby organizations that we felt were credible organizations that aligned with our company’s values,” Jess says. “That led us to meeting Lisa for a tour of KidWorks. Vanessa and I looked at each other, knowing that had to be a sign that KidWorks was where we were supposed to be! We joined the first annual KidWorks Classic golf tournament committee and got to work.”

And Jes has kept working on behalf of the golf tournament and KidWorks ever since.

“I started by handling logistics for the tournament,” Jes says. “I offered support wherever I was needed. I love event planning/coordinating and had a lot of fun helping the committee ensure a smooth event before and during.

Adds Jes, “The following year, I headed up the logistics team and worked with KidWorks’ staff, our committee co-chairs and the golf club management. In every tournament since, I’ve helped with registration and on-course support.”

In addition to the golf tournament, Jes is also very active with Young Professionals for KidWorks, a group of about two dozen working professionals in Orange County from diverse industries dedicated to making a lasting impact in the communities that they live and work. 

Most recently, she worked with Zeke Pena, our April “Volunteer of the Month,” on his project to build school desks for students involved in our programs who transitioned to an at-home and online learning environment due to the pandemic.

“I loved the idea that Zeke brought to the young professionals group, and immediately I wondered if it would be valuable to personalize the desks,” Jes says. “My part was to cut the vinyl and transfer it to the desks on-site. I was also involved delivering the first desks we completed to the students. What an amazing experience to be able to see the kids’ and parents’ faces when the desks were delivered!”

The KidWorks’ staff is so grateful for all Jes does on behalf of our mission to serve hundreds of students.

“Jes has been so faithful to our mission since she began volunteering in  2012,” says SueLynn Kim, our Partnership and Donor Relations Coordinator. “She is on top of everything, ensuring that no details are missed. Jes has a wonderful heart. She is always willing to step in when support is needed and her extreme versatility/adaptability makes her a huge asset to KidWorks.”

Lisa Gels sums up Jess in four words: “She gets things done!”

Jes and her husband, Bobby, love to travel and explore.  They also adopted a COVID-19 rescue dog named Beau.

We are so grateful that Jes brings her business know-how and creativity to her volunteer activities at KidWorks.  And to think that it all started with a Thanksgiving meal Jes and her Rock Harbor Church family delivered to one of KidWorks’ families.

By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer