Heroes of the Pandemic: Jennifer Homan
Lifestyle is sharing stories about people making a difference during the pandemic—including Jennifer Homan, VP of development for Junior Achievement
Vice president of development, Junior Achievement South Florida
Background: In her role at Junior Achievement, Homan raises funds to deliver financial literacy, workforce readiness and entrepreneurship programs to 52,000 students a year. The Aventura resident earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in mental health counseling from Nova Southeastern University.
Pandemic stories: “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Junior Achievement didn’t miss a step, immediately transitioning to continue to meet the needs of teachers, students and parents by providing curriculum on digital platforms,” Homan says. “It was a fast-paced response effort to limit the disruption in education as much as possible.”
At the same time, the lockdown was putting severe financial strain on many of the restaurants that had supported the popular JA Uncorked fundraising event (last held in January). When her sister, a hospital administrator in Michigan, told her she barely had time to eat, Homan saw an opportunity to help both the local restaurant industry and essential workers.
“They helped us raise $315,000 for the event and now, two months later, their business capacities were limited,” Homan says, recalling the challenges facing the restaurant industry after the shutdown. “When you’re a charity, you’re on the receiving end a lot, and when you can stand up and give back, you do.”
She called the effort Medi-Meals, an effort she kickstarted in March with a $500 donation of her own. She designed a logo, created a GoFundMe page, and sent a link via Facebook to her network. By the next morning, she had collected more than $2,200.
Over the next five weeks, 80 donors contributed $8,200 to provide food for workers at Broward Health, Memorial Regional Hospital, UM Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Aventura Hospital and Holy Cross Hospital. Homan developed a budget to maximize the resources, paying the restaurants about $8 a meal. Casa Calabria in Fort Lauderdale, for example, provided spaghetti and meatballs, bread and a side salad; Quarterdeck restaurants made club sandwiches and sushi; Capital Grille made truffle macaroni and cheese.
In all, some 15 restaurants and culinary businesses received billable orders and/or donated food, including Hoffman’s Chocolate, It’Sugar, Village Tavern, Smokey Bones, Spatch Peri-Peri, Tap 42, and Firehouse Subs. Homan and her son, Jakyb, 18, made nightly deliveries, dropping the food off at the curb of ER entrances. Hospital staff would pick it up and wheel it inside on a cart.
For mother and son, Medi Meals is a sign that people are fundamentally good. “It was a very dark time,” Homan says. “The first [instinct] was to help. Everyone came together.”
Photo by Eduardo Schneider