From the time she was a teenager, Shelley Hendler worked. First making money babysitting and tutoring in high school, then later as an educator in the Baltimore County school system, then for 12 years, she served as a middle school administrator for Krieger Schechter Day School.

Yet, five years ago, Shelley felt it was time to move on and start her own “chapter two.” Knowing she was still young, and looking to broaden her horizons, this empty-nester wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to do. Then several opportunities came knocking at her door.

What happened? Someone invited me to a meeting of The Associated’s Jewish Women’s Giving Foundation (JWGF). The women who participate in this collective philanthropy group make decisions on grants to programs that impact women and girls. JWGF opened up an opportunity for learning and, through the grant process, I was introduced to people working so passionately to make Baltimore and the Jewish community a better place.

Such as? Well, each year we get more than 50 letters of interest from programs supporting women and girls from programs that address everything from sex trafficking and domestic violence to after-school initiatives for girls. We then ask for grant proposals and visit from some of these projects to determine who receives grants. I love reading about and seeing the work these organizations do up close and personal, especially in Baltimore city.

Any surprises? I always gave to The Associated. It was what you did if you grew up in Jewish Baltimore. Yet I never had any idea of the breadth and depth of the work they did for the Jewish community and beyond.

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