When you live in New York City, you inevitably meet people who are slash-somethings. A typical example is server-slash-artist, but you don’t often hear about an Executive Director-slash-Talent Manager-slash-Volunteer Board Representative. Well, you do now. Meet Jennifer D. Kelley, a true dynamo in every sense of the word. We recently connected with Jennifer to talk about Twilight, resolutions, her role at the New York Staffing Association, and her two years volunteering for the organization:
Housing Works: Tell us about your role as the Executive Director of the New York Staffing Association, what’s a typical day like there?
Jennifer D. Kelley: The New York Staffing Association (NYSA) is the trade association that promotes the interests of the staffing industry through legal and legislative advocacy, education, and the advancement of high standards of ethical conduct. NYSA is a non profit organization for the staffing industry in the State of New York. We serve as the voice of the industry in state efforts to communicate industry matters to association members, legislative leaders, regulators, the news media and the general public. A typical day at NYSA includes touching base with members, industry partners and board members; promoting and marketing educational events and seminars; connecting with our lobbyists and legislative team for updates on the current legislation that we are working on; communicating that information to our key players; recruiting new members; soliciting sponsorships; planning and executing directives from the Programming Committee, Legislative Committee, Board of Directors and NYSA Chapter President.
HW: You are also a talent manager, gaining national attention for celebrities. Any memorable stories you can share?
JDK: My favorite client as a celebrity talent manager was definitely creating “Team HBG”, a pop culture reference for Kristen Stewart’s personal bodyguard during the five years of the Twilight phenomenon. He was lovingly referred to as the “Hot Bodyguard”, hence the initials HBG. I’ve never before encountered a fan base that was so dedicated and devoted to an individual so quickly. Through social media tactics, YouTube videos and a NY-based team, HBG rapidly gained international recognition and exposure through various media outlets including British GQ Magazine, MTV, VH1: The FabLife, Access Hollywood, Yahoo! Movies, ABC News Radio, Associated Press, Summit Entertainment, USA Today, E! News, and Reelz Channel. He continues to be featured on entertainment/pop culture lists as one of the most attractive celebrity bodyguards. It was a completely fun project that I have incredible memories from. Plus, it was really awesome to get to go to all of the Twilight events, movie premieres, red-carpets and hang out on-set with the cast members. I’m very lucky to continue to have several of them as very good friends.
HW: What drew you to volunteering at Housing Works?
JDK: Every year, instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I create a theme for the year that I want to follow. In 2012, I decided that my theme for the year would be “community”. I started purchasing my groceries from a locally-based store, chose local coffee over Starbucks and decided to get involved with volunteering for an organization that would directly impact my community, which is what brought me to Housing Works. I absolutely love reading, coffee and thrift stores, so I was instantly a fan of the Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe when I saw a musical performance by one of my friends, Bobby Long, there in December 2010. I also happen to be very active in the LGBT community and have had several close friends struggle with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It made perfect sense for me to choose Housing Works as a place where I could not only give back to a cause that I absolutely believe in, but also to find people with similar interests and passions. In my two years as a volunteer there, I’ve met the most wonderful people and continue to be inspired by the stories that are shared by volunteers, clients, customers and staff. Housing Works is lovingly referred to as an island of misfit toys and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Housing Works is a family, one that I am so proud to be part of.
HW: What are your responsibilities as the volunteer representative on Housing Works’ Board of Directors?
JDK: As the Volunteer Representative on the Housing Works Board of Directors, it is my responsibility to serve as the voice of the volunteers on any issues or concerns that arise. I attend the Board meetings for several levels of the organization and give input and feedback in regards to events, fundraisers, policy changes, etc. I help to encourage volunteers to become more involved and work closely with Larry Bryant, our Volunteer Director. Its been a wonderful opportunity to meet so many more volunteers through my position and really ensure that I am representing not only my own opinion, but also theirs.
HW: What advice would you give someone looking to volunteer here (or anywhere)?
JDK: The advice I would give to anyone looking to volunteer here is to be committed to your volunteer assignment, but to understand that as your life changes, Housing Works volunteering opportunities can change with you. I started out as a regular Thursday night volunteer and worked with an awesome group of people for over a year. Then, due to other projects that required more and more of my time, I felt overextended and overwhelmed by all of my commitments and it became a challenge for me to consistently attend my shift at the bookstore. I met with Larry to ask for his advice and he told me that I could easily become an Events Volunteer, meaning instead of a 4-hour commitment every week, I could do one or two events a month instead. This was the perfect solution for me. It was important for me to continue my volunteer service at Housing Works, but I just didn’t have the availability that I had before. I’m so happy that there were options for me to continue volunteering in ways that worked better for my schedule.
HW: Your volunteer ‘headquarters’ is our Bookstore Café. Which section do you head to first?
JDK: As a lifelong reader, I never really moved past my love for Young Adult novels, so that is definitely the first section I always check out for new arrivals as soon as I get to the Bookstore. After I get my coffee first, of course!
Connect with Jennifer on Twitter. Learn more about Housing Works volunteer opportunities here.