Over the years, as she moved from South Carolina to Silicon Valley to Baltimore, Annette Saxon has always volunteered in her community and elsewhere. But for many years, she never really saw herself sitting at the head of the table.

Yet, while she was on the board at the Center for Jewish Education, an agency of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, she was first approached with the idea. Former Executive Director Larry Ziffer suggested she might want to work toward becoming its board chair.

“I needed to think about it,” she recalls. “I went home and asked myself, ‘can I do this?’ And then I realized, absolutely!”

That first leadership experience led to more opportunities, including chair of the JCC (she and her husband, Mike, have been the only couple to have both held that position in Baltimore … although 15 years apart), chair of the Associated Women’s Campaign and various Associated committees and task forces. And she found that she loved it.

Recently retired as director of development for Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, this former fundraising and public relations professional – she once worked for the gaming company, Atari – is taking on a new challenge. For the next two years, Annette, who is also a Lion of Judah, will chair Associated Women.

You are originally from Columbia, South Carolina.

I grew up in a small Jewish community in Columbia. There were only a couple of dozen Jewish kids in my grade. I knew them all because from the time I began preschool, hardly anyone new joined my class. I attended Sunday and Hebrew school, and my parents were volunteer teachers there. My bat mitzvah was held with group of girls on a Friday night at the synagogue; and we all had our party together in the JCC lobby.

How did your early years influence your values of giving back? 

My parents didn’t have a lot, but they felt it was important to support both the Jewish and the broader community. They were truly philanthropic role models.  I still remember a photo, taken by the local newspaper with my sister, brother and mother when I was around 12 years old. My mom volunteered with B’nai B’rith Women and was involved in collecting products like toothbrushes and toothpaste for children that didn’t have any. The photo showed us dropping the items into a collection box stationed at a local drugstore. It was my first experience helping others. Since then, I’ve tried to make volunteering central to my life, even when I was raising my kids, Jake and Sarah, and working. As a bonus, I met my best friends through my volunteer work.

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The Associated Contributors are writers from The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.