Until yesterday, It had been more than 40 years since I’d seen Toni Durchin Werner.
As wee toddlers/preschoolers, Toni and I used to be schlepped around to “ORT” meetings and events by our mothers. Both of our moms were unwavering in their dedication to this organization, but we really didn’t know why. What I did know, was that, the lox boxes were awesome because they had this cool telephone key chain in them. Toni loved this one particular event that was solely dedicated to chocolate. I’m sort of pissed that my Mom never took me to that chocolate event. Toni got chocolate. I got smoked fish. Oh, the injustice.
Like my beloved Mother, and anyone who knows me knows I’m crazy about my Mother, ORT has recently become, “my thing.” I am deeply ensconced in ORT America. One month ago, It was with great enthusiasm, that I accepted a full time position as the Campaign Director for the Metropolitan Chicago Region.
Up until I applied for the position, with all of the years my Mom was involved, and the fundraising I’d successfully done for many years with a Jewish organization, I really didn’t know what ORT did. I knew it was Jewish-y, but I didn’t know how or why. As a fundraiser and a marketer and someone who is kept up at night by sad stories of the world, the “why” is the most important thing. This is when I dove in head first and fell in love with ORT.
Okay, I admit it. I have been slightly distracted – The kids, fur kids that leave gifts on my bed, DePaul curriculum work, etc. Plus, the Cubs are in the World Series for crying out loud! Okay, not crying because it’s baseball, but here in Chicago, we’re pretty obsessed and the energy in our town is chock full of electricity! (and traffic.)
Don’t get me started on the level of electricity I experience at the mere sight of Kris Bryant. Okay, back to my point.
As I researched ORT, I found myself thinking, “ORT has its own unique brand of electricity, but who knows it?” You may be thinking,
ORT = Electricity? Um, what?
I always thought ORT was just about a bunch of women who love each other, hang out, play games, eat, and do good Jewish-y works.
I didn’t realize the strength of this place and the magnitude of the work that continuously happens and has been happening since 1880.
While the lox and chocolate and cookbooks and calendars ORT once provided here in Chicago were great, and the foundation of ORT is rock solid, I’m deeply inspired by the meat on the bones of this work. There will have to be a myriad of shifts in order for Chicago’s philanthropic population to learn how absolutely important this work is. I think in the fun of it all and by rote, some people stopped messaging to others about the actual work. There’s no blame here. It happens, but now, it’s time to market the hell out of an already strong case for support.
When I think of my Mother and her involvement in the place where I now sit, I am periodically moved to tears. There is so much I don’t remember about my childhood, but ORT, I remember. I remember her love for it and her sense of purpose. When I researched ORT’s mission and programs throughout the world, flew to New York to hear ORT America’s CEO, Marty Greenberg’s vision and met the whole amazing staff, and interviewed various executive committee members, I realized that many donors I know here in our region simply don’t know the guts of this work. They have no idea as to its urgency or the MEASURABLE impact it has, with more than 300,000 disadvantaged youth and adults. ORT really does change the trajectory of lives and communities. That isn’t even a bogus nonprofit tagline. It’s the truth.
For those of you who know me well, you know I hadn’t been able to have a good cry in a very long time. Simply connecting to my Mom’s beloved organization started some tears flowing, but when I could see a holistic view of the new opportunities and all that the Metropolitan Chicago Region needs on ORT’s behalf, I finally knew I had arrived home.
And the cherry on the chocolate sundae, or in my case, the lox and bagel, is that ORT is a part of my legacy. It’s a part of my present and it’s keenly obvious that it is an integral part of my future as a fundraiser, a marketer, a Jewish woman and as a mother.
Plus, I get to hang out with Toni again.
Shabbat Shalom and GO CUBS!