The St. John Community Foundation has a new helmswoman.
After serving as the group’s resource developer since March 2010, Celia Kalousek officially took over the group’s reins on Monday, February 7. Former SJCF executive director Paul Devine, who led the group for three years, stepped down on February 4.
“I decided to retire,” said Devine. “I tried to retire before I took the job and then decided to do it. I went into it with my feet dragging a little but after the first few months it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.”
Devine led the group following former SJCF director Carole DeSenne’s passing and helped the organization grow both in its volunteer base and programs.
“I really enjoyed building the community foundation up from what it was before,” said Devine. “We didn’t have too many programs going and now we have 12 major programs and we continue to grow.”
Handing over leadership to Kalousek will ensure the continued growth of SJCF, Devine added.
“Celia is so professional and experienced and her abilities are tremendous,” he said. “We’re blessed to have her taking over the position and she’s really going to make SJCF even better.”
Devine is transitioning to the SJCF board of directors, which also counts Lonnie Willis, Senator at Large Craig Barshigner, Harry Daniels, Jessica Richards-Daly, Ronnie Jones, Leslie Smith, Rob Crane, Oswin Sewer and Alecia Wells among its ranks.
Kalousek has been working with and supporting local non-profit organizations for years, having most recently launched the organization Community Service Involvement in order to revamp volunteer requirements in high schools.
“All local high schools require a minimum hour of volunteer time in order for students to graduate,” said Kalousek. “In 1998 the requirement was 500 hours and then in 2003 they dropped that to 100 hours because kids were having a really hard time meeting the requirement.”
“In 2009 we hosted a non-profit expo to put everyone together,” said the SJCF executive director. “What we found out was that the non-profits weren’t ready for the students, so we began training the non-profits to handle the students and keep them engaged. We’re already seeing a lot of improvement there.”
Kalousek has also worked closely with COAST, a local substance abuse prevention group, as well as the Island Green Building Association. Collaborating with various island organizations is exactly the trend Kalousek plans to foster at SJCF.
“My two main things are promoting volunteerism and being a volunteer coordinator,” she said. “If we know you want to volunteer, we can farm you out to whatever organization needs you. We are not operating in a vacuum and we don’t want to duplicate what another organization is doing, but we can support their efforts with volunteers and resources.”
SJCF’s programs like Dial-A-Ride and aluminum can recycling will also be boosted under Kalousek’s leadership.
“We’re focusing on growing the programs we have going already,” she said. “For Dial-a-Ride we now have a community bus and have been expanding our route. Our recycling efforts are being expanded into a full Go Green Initiative through which we are collaborating with other island organizations in order to expand the entire island’s environmental programs.”
The new executive director of SJCF is in the process of obtaining her Master’s Degree in educational psychology at the University of the Virgin Islands. Her studies at UVI relate directly to her work at SJCF.
“One of my professors is the director of United Way in the Virgin Islands and my research project will be turned in as a grant request as soon as the class wraps up,” she said.
Kalousek is also focused on getting the community more involved in directing the community foundation, she added.
“We really want to hear what the public wants as far as programs and plans for the future,” said Kalousek. “I see a lot more collaboration as far as working with the community. We have so many talented and willing people on this island and if we focused that, we could achieve amazing results.”
SJCF’s annual meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 28, at the Fish Trap Restaurant. A dinner will be hosted at 6 p.m. with the meeting kicking off at 7 p.m. and the community is invited.
“Come to dinner or the meeting or both and tell us what is important to you,” Kalousek said. “We have two and a half acres at Bellevue where we’re planning to build a community center and we just got a grant to clear the area. We have so many ideas of what we can do there, but we want to know what the community wants.”
Kalousek is keeping the organization’s website, www.sjcf.org, up to date and residents can register to volunteer in any area of interest right on the site. For Kalousek, volunteering is something intrinsic to a healthy community.
“It’s simple — be a part of the change you want to see happen,” she said. “We all have something to give. Even if all you have is time, that could be really valuable to someone else.”
For more information about SJCF or to volunteer, call Kalousek at 693-9410 or stop by the office on the third floor of The Marketplace.