• Jayne Moraski

    Jayne Moraski

    Executive Director, Family Promise of Gainesville

    As executive director at Family Promise, Jayne Moraski, has dedicated her career to serving others. At Family Promise, the nonprofit organization offers resources such as shelter and self-sufficiency, management, transportation, education, housing and meals. Her devotion to her clients and her dedication to empower other has defined her success. Moraski doesn’t attribute her success to money and status, rather she promotes self-sufficiency for her clients to create a better quality of life for them. They are her constant inspiration to expand programs and resources for them.

    “My current job really solidified my need to serve and help others — my clients, my staff, my volunteers.  I feel like I am finally where I belong at Family Promise: finding ways to show others how much they matter and how much potential they have.”

     

    What does it mean to be Fierce?

    It’s funny that fierce and fear sound so much alike because the two emotions are heavily interrelated. Very early in life, I had a fear of asking questions or calling people on the phone. My mom’s words still ring in my mind, “What’s the worst they can say? The word ‘no’ doesn’t hurt you.” Thanks mom. So, I faced those fears and asking questions became normal. Feeling silly stopped mattering, and my love of learning won out.  Ultimately, I think a fierce person is one who channels their fears into positive energy.

    What does success, achievement and accomplishment mean to you?

    Success definitely means leaving the world a better place than how you found it. Even small acts of kindness and thanks are incredibly important. Success has never been about money or status. It’s about building other people up to make their lives better. This idea was always in the back of my mind, but my current job really solidified my need to serve and help others — my clients, my staff and my volunteers. I feel like I am finally where I belong at Family Promise – finding ways to show others how much they matter and how much potential they have.

    What motivates you in the morning?

    My daughters motivate me. I love seeing their individual strengths and want to encourage them to act with kindness while they build on those strengths. I hope my work ethic and passion for my work will serve as a good example for them.

    What or who is inspiring you right now? Why?

    My clients in the Family Promise shelter inspire me every day. Imagine losing everything — your job, your car, your home and winding up in a shelter with your family. Would you still be kind to others? Would you still greet each day with a smile? Would you still pound the pavement looking for work again or would you retreat and feel despair? It’s easy to look at the 1 percent of folks in this world who make it big in their field and say, “Oh, I want to be like them.” To me, it’s more useful to look next door to you, look over the counter at the person selling you a soda and be inspired by the kindness and courage they display. The more we appreciate the kindnesses in our lives right now, the happier we will be.

    A second group of folks who inspire me are the volunteers at Family Promise. They work all day and have their own lives to manage and still find time to serve dinner for our shelter guests or spend the night at the shelter. They inspire me to keep working to build our program even on the days I am worn out.

    What was the best decision you’ve made? What’s the worst?

    The best decision I ever made was to marry my husband, Bryon. We make a great team and make each other better. He is an amazing person and an amazing father. We’ve been happily married for almost 23 years, and I look forward to coming home every day to see him and my girls.

    The worst decision I ever made was probably my mullet cut in 6th grade. Can we not talk about that anymore? It was not a good look.

    What has been your biggest obstacle and how have you overcome it?

    I envy folks who have known what they wanted to do since they were four. I love learning and really had a hard time choosing what to do for a career. So one of the biggest obstacles I had was actually choosing a career. It had as much to do with finding out what I didn’t want to do as finding out what my passion was.

    My hope is that the array of careers I have had only build on each other to provide skills that make me better at my current job.

    How do you address negativity in your life and in business?

    A lot of people tell me my job is hard. It’s true that I see folks when they are feeling down and going through tremendous hardship. Even when they graduate from Family Promise, life is hard for our families who work multiple jobs, take the bus for hours, etc. It’s extremely difficult to be poor.

    Negativity is there for a reason. So it’s really important to listen to others to see the source of their negativity. That means listening to the stuff that is hard to hear and finding solutions. I am fortunate that I have a team of folks at work who also try to see the good in things — to understand why the Family Promise clients make the choices they make (not to excuse it, just to understand). I try to see the good in every situation, and I think it is my job to communicate that good to others. If there is hope for a brighter path forward, it is our job at Family Promise to look for that path and help others get on it.

    Is there a particular instance or occurrence that you credit for building your confidence and self-esteem?

    Loving parents who told me I could do anything were, of course, a big help to my confidence. A loving husband who believes in me is also pretty great for my self-esteem.

    One event in college stands out as something that retroactively built my self-esteem. At the time I thought I wanted to be an economist. I had a teaching assistant tell me, “You don’t want to pursue economics, it’s a really hard field.” The courses were really challenging for me, so I was scared he was right and changed my major to business instead of economics. I realized much later he was an idiot, but I was a bigger idiot for listening to him. I definitely could have pursued that career — I ended up getting an “A” in all but one of my economics courses. My lack of confidence held me back. Later, it made me determined never to make such a mistake again. So what if something I want is hard? To quote Theodore Roosevelt, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…”

    How do you empower other women?

    My goal is to empower everyone I know. Even if this means losing an employee, so they can achieve bigger things elsewhere. That is the right thing to do. The first step is to pay attention to others and to find their strengths. What are they good at and what do they enjoy doing? Then (the important step) let them know they are good at it. Tell them why their strengths matter at work and how it can serve them well in the future. I really think connecting people to a purpose is a critical part of empowering them.

    Then find ways to build on those strengths. That might mean helping them get additional training or giving them new challenges that will build their résumé and build their confidence. Hopefully this will help provide folks with their own vision of a better future.

    Specifically, within Family Promise, about 40 percent of the mothers in our shelter have experienced domestic violence. So, we often talk to women about how they can empower themselves through taking control of their own future and avoiding negative relationships and past cycles where they were dominated or controlled by another person. We also work closely with Peaceful Paths and other domestic violence shelters and refer our guests to these resources whenever we need to. I think folks might be surprised how often local nonprofits help each other — we do it to empower our clients to live better lives.

     

    What change do you want to see in your industry?

    The nonprofit shelter industry has always been full of caring folks. A recent change within social service provision is that nonprofits are not expected to produce results or have as much accountability to funders as in corporate America. I definitely welcome that. But in for-profit corporations, nobody would expect a healthy company that could pay their staff unhealthy or unlivable wages. Yet funders seldom want to pay for the cost to effectively administer a shelter. So, I hope that donors and funders can find a way to fund shelter operations each year knowing that shelters such as Family Promise provide a critical safety net for the community. Family Promise and other social service providers are worth supporting to end the cycle of poverty for future generations and teach families the skills of self-sufficiency. Folks living paycheck to paycheck will have bad luck sometimes. We cannot fully get rid of homelessness. But if the entire community supports effective area shelters, we can dramatically reduce the time and stress associated with homelessness.

    Do you have any advice for young women as they try to achieve their goals?

    You can do anything, you just can’t do everything. So, if you are like me, and you had a hard time deciding what you wanted to do for a career, just pick something and keep moving forward. Try something for a while and if you don’t like it, then do something else. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just learn from mistakes and figure out how it can make you stronger in the future.

    What do you want to be remembered for?

    Personally, I hope my kids know how much I love them and remember me as a mom who loves them unconditionally.

    Professionally, I hope I am remembered as someone who truly cares about my clients. So many of the guests at Family Promise have had folks in their lives (even their own families) who are cruel or take advantage of their weaknesses or lack of knowledge. So, I hope they remember me as someone who never withholds knowledge — to see the positive future that is possible for each of them and give them the tools to achieve that future.

    How do you defy the current stereotypes, stigmas and double standards that women have today?

    While we need to be aware of common stereotypes, I worry that focusing on these stigmas only makes things worse. It’s not helpful to focus on what might have held me back. It’s better to figure out a new tactic to achieve my goals, if at first, I fail. For example, a person may take my passion for helping others as a weakness. While I am an emotional person, all I can do is accept who I am and move on. Who has time to worry whether I am perceived as emotional or too passionate? I have too much to get done today!