Hero of Chesed: Jill Davidson
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The Jewish Federation of Cleveland recognizes and thanks frontline workers at our beneficiary agencies.
Meet "Hero of Chesed" Jill Davidson, director of information management systems, at the Mandel JCC.
Q: Why did you choose your current position?
A: I began working professionally for the Mandel JCC of Cleveland 26 years ago. For many years, I was the director of children and day camping, but I was always the person everyone came to for help with technology before the JCC had an IT department. So when I was looking for a new professional challenge, I was lucky to find it right here at the JCC as the director of information management systems. It is the perfect blend of my social work background in building community and my technological skill set.
Q: What do you love most about working with community members?
A: Through my many years at the JCC, I have been able to develop significant relationships with children who participated in our after-school programming and day camps, who then came to work for me as counselors in these same programs, and who I now see regularly in our hallways as they bring their own young families to workout or to attend preschool or the after-school programs where I first met them as children! And I get to help their parents purchase tickets for the Mandel JCC Cleveland Jewish FilmFest, renew their membership or, during this pandemic, reserve their spot in the pool! I even have one young man with special needs, who I met when he was 10, and is now in his 30s, call me regularly to catch up – those are my favorite phone calls!
Q: How has your typical day changed since the COVID-19 outbreak?
A: The IT department was able to move our staff to working from their own homes very quickly. When the JCC was closed, my responsibilities shifted to communicating with members who wished to freeze their memberships or donate their membership dues. And then working with families who needed refunds for programming we had to cancel. Using my database skills, I quickly ramped up a system to keep track of these requests, ensure that their requests were honored, and keep staff and members informed of the status of these requests.
Our next goal was to find a way to offer our top-notch group fitness classes virtually, so that our members could attend their favorite classes online. Working with our software consultants, we were the first JCC in the country to launch a virtual platform available to only our members who can now participate in live group fitness classes or chose pre-recorded classes as part of their regular workout. Each day we offer five live virtual classes, and we now have over 300 pre-recorded classes available in our online library.
Now that we have reopened the facility, my department is responsible for setting up, maintaining, and supporting the reservation system that members are using to set up their appointments to use the facility. We went from only having a handful of people using our online registration system pre-COVID to having over 16,000 logins in the past 30 days.
Q: What are the biggest challenges that community members you work with are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: The strength of the Mandel JCC is the relationships that are built here. If you are a regular in a boot camp class, and you miss one day – members of the class immediately reach out to make sure you are ok. So for the first three months, our members missed these face-to-face opportunities to workout, learn, and grow within the walls of the JCC. Technology became the answer to reconnecting our members to our instructors, preschool teachers, camp staff, and more. Now that the fitness facility has reopened, we are able to continue to build these relationships in person, but technology will play an important part in these connections for the long-term future as we continue to prioritize socially distant experiences.
Q: Where do you gain your strength in times like these and what do you do to recharge?
A: The challenges the IT department faced were energizing for me. It was like a giant jigsaw puzzle to put all the pieces and parts in place so that the services that so many people love about the JCC could continue. We needed to come up with good solutions, and quickly. And I am so proud of my team that made it all happen!
Personally, we had gotten a new puppy in February and playing and training her has been a great distraction for my whole family! A few college friends and I started a weekly Zoom chat and that has been a wonderful way to reconnect with people that I cherish. I also enjoy knitting as a way to slow down and relax.