A Path to the Not-for-Profit Sector: Walking in Mom’s Footstep

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Nov 14, 2021 | Blog

When I reflect on my experiences in the not-for-profit sector and the journey I have taken to get here, I can’t help but think of my mom and the influence she’s had on shaping who I’ve become.

My mom is one of those people who does everything in her being to support those around her. She is the neighbour you can always count on for that missing ingredient and the person helping a friend with yard work when they’re too overwhelmed. My mom started in the not-for-profit sector when I was a little kid with the Parent Advisory Council at the neighbourhood school and continued by supporting community event delivery, eventually working alongside community to support the establishment of a not-for-profit organization supporting families in the neighbourhood. Twenty-five years later, she is now the Executive Director of that same organization she once helped to establish.

I was always at my mom’s side as a kid: supporting the community garden, doing hot dog sales, helping fix up run-down neighbourhood homes, selling chocolate bars door-to-door, and running community events (I’ll never forget the fun of cake walks and toy bingos). Every fundraiser or community event we could support, we did. Not only did I gain some serious volunteer hours, but I also became deeply embedded in the community, learning from community leaders. I began to understand the importance of building relationship at an early age. As I got older, I fell away from being mom’s little helper but did not fall away from the desire to support. I was the awkward teenager selling ice cream cones at lunch to build schools in developing countries, and volunteering at the local shelter to serve breakfast. I can’t say I have always understood who or what I was trying to support, but I had the drive to do something to make the world a better place.

As I grew up, my career aspirations included the President of Canada (doesn’t that sound fun?), a popstar, and world traveller. Flash forward through an undergraduate degree, some epic travels, many jobs, and a ton of life and learning, and I feel like in a way I get to do all the things I wanted to do as a child. I have found a role that harnesses my desire to support, my love of connection, and my need for always learning. I get to virtually travel around the province and get to know the wonderful people who make up our sector and lead positive change. In my role as Sector Development Coordinator, I get to work every day to improve outcomes and increase capacity of not-for-profits across the sector. I spend my workdays researching what is happening in the sector, supporting amazing cohorts and initiatives, learning from sector leaders, and experimenting with new practices and processes to enhance our support for the sector. Each day I look at the sticky note on my computer that reads, “How are you supporting the not-for-profit sector today?” and each day I strive to answer that question.

I am grateful for the lasting impact my wonderful, caring, and creative mother has had on who I am, and I look forward to carrying on her legacy however that looks. I’ve never really settled on an answer to “What do I want to be when I grow up?” and I don’t know if I will. What I do know is my passion and excitement exist in the not-for-profit sector, working to create transformative, lasting, and positive impacts

Headshot of Jenessa Ellis in white shirt.


Jenessa Ellis

Jenessa is our Interim Sector Development Coordinator, who has a passion for volunteering and continually pushing the not-for-profit sector forward. She’s an advocate for connecting, collaborating, and learning from the community – they’re the experts! Jenessa completed a Bachelor of Arts at UNBC, with a major in International Studies…

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