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Community, Org Culture

The Beauty and Bounty of Giving: Herb it Forward Foundation (HIFF)

by Campowerment Crew
 ∙ Dec 19 ∙ 6 Min Read

We’ve said it one (million) time(s) and we’ll say it a million more: the Universe is an emotional marketplace, whereby giving AND receiving are both gifts, of sorts. 

What if we could look at it this way: when the giver provides, the giver generates energetic waves of goodness. More granularly, one act of giving = at least two gifts: that of the literal gift at hand, and that of the value of being received. 

Succinctly: we believe in not only the beauty but the bounty of giving. That it’s contagious, because it evokes a feeling that inspires many to kindle, to keep alive.

We’re humbled to have the opportunity to be the conduit for our community’s giving with Give Her Camp, our sister non-profit that grants deserving new beginnings via transformational camp retreat experiences, but our grandest act of paying it forward is in our engagement with the Herb It Forward Foundation (HIFF): a Philadelphia-based organization supporting the education, connection and growth of young leaders.

Each June in the Northeast, Campowerment produces a Leadership Camp in collaboration with the leadership team at HIFF that is designed to connect the dots between the incredible people and the powerful ideas and work swirling around the HIFF community. The annual camp gives their scholars, who earn scholarships from HIFF and grow through year-round engagement opportunities, a place to tap into their inner children, as so often they’re in “DO” mode to achieve and be the best at all they set out to accomplish.

Below is a conversation between our Crew and Jennifer Jones, HIFF’s Executive Director. We hope that through it you’ll find motivation to look at the many facets of giving and the work (in and outside the non-profit space) that it emboldens generous people to do in full power and in line with purpose. And ain’t nothin’ more bountiful than that chain reaction. 

Here goes…

Campowerment Crew (CC): What is the mission of Herb It Forward? What do you do, and who do you serve?

Jen Jones (JJ): The short answer is our purpose is to support the education and growth of young leaders in the Philadelphia area. We do that through scholarship dollars for their higher education experience and the community-building initiatives, with Leadership Camp being the largest one of those.

We were founded as a scholarship program to honor our founder Shelly’s father, Herb Lotman, a philanthropist and mentor to many in his lifetime. The crux of the scholarship is to honor students who have shown a commitment to paying it forward in their communities. Sure we look at transcripts, their future plans, etc… but really what we’re looking for is students who, despite being in difficult circumstances and challenging environments, have shown a commitment to serving their communities and doing everything they can to pay it forward, and realizing that even in tough situations there’s still a difference that can and should be made.

CC: Why did you decide to do a Leadership Camp? What is the role of Camp within the HIFF mission?

JJ: In 2016, we recognized that while we were interviewing our future scholarship recipients, we kept hearing over and over, “I feel like I’m alone in this,” or “I’m the only person in my community who is heading to college,” or “I’m the only one in my school that’s participating in community service opportunities,” or “I wish I had a friend that was doing the same thing as me.”

This set off a lightbulb in Shelly’s head: “we’re building this community right now by identifying all these awesome candidates in Philly. why wouldn’t we connect them to one another?” So that’s exactly what she did.

In July of that year, she took 8 of the scholarship recipients on a HIFF day where they worked together on different challenges, like Escape the Room and cake-building.The day culminated in a dinner with the scholarship team. After seeing how well these students connected with one another, the rest of the story wrote itself.

With Shelly’s experience as a Campowerment attendee and the success of this experiment Shelly thought, “what better place to give these students the opportunity to connect to themselves and one another?” For us, camp is the ultimate opportunity to connect. Where the scholars we honor can leave behind the things that hold them back in the day to day and just be themselves and connect with one another.

CC: What is it about camp/being at camp that empowers HIFF scholars to flourish and thrive and connect?

JJ: A huge element is: NATURE! Philadelphia is a great city, there’s a lot going on. For our students to have the opportunity to be in nature and relax and unwind is really special for them. There’s a great clip of Mahim saying, “it just lets you be a teenager, and lets you be a kid,” which for a lot of our students is the first time they get to do that. It’s important that we continue to offer the experience exactly as it is.

CC: What does hosting the camp enable Herb It Forward to do?

JJ: Camp really just gives the students a safe place to connect and be together. You take them to this place where they don’t have to be responsible to or for anyone or anything else, they’re able to reestablish the relationships they have with themselves and create new relationships with each other. I don’t think we would be as successful in forging those relationships without the camp experience.

For our staff, we’re able to see how much they really grow. Look: we’re not making them amazing: they’re already amazing. We’re just helping them continue to become more amazing.

CC: What learning or message can you share with the world that Leadership Camp and HIFF’s commitment to the scholars’ yearly coming together in this way can teach the non-profit space at-large? Or teach anyone, really?

Our biggest learning is: When you find amazing people, connect them to each other, when you see them doing great things, connect them to other people doing great things.

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