For Jennifer Ogburn, convincing others to get involved in their communities is almost as much fun as getting involved herself.
“My friends and co-workers tell me that I have a contagious enthusiasm for volunteering—an energy that encourages them to become active in the community as well,” Jennifer said.
Finding time to volunteer and helping others to get involved has long been a priority for Jennifer, a senior engineering manager in Harris Corporation’s Government Communications Systems Division in Palm Bay, FL and a mother of two young sons. Jennifer was bitten by the volunteerism bug as a child, watching her parents’ involvement in her family’s hometown of Fairfax, VA. Her own community involvement began in high school, as part of the Kiwanis Key Club. She continued organized volunteering through the Junior League when she moved to Florida.
Today, as a busy professional and mother, Jennifer has sought volunteer opportunities that provide her with an opportunity to engage her children in community activism and to make a real, lasting impact for children, families and seniors in Brevard County, FL. As a result of her efforts, homebound seniors have received critical meals, local organizations have expanded their educational offerings and women and girls have been exposed to the opportunities available in the field of engineering.
One of the organizations Jennifer is heavily involved in is Meal on Wheels. Every month 50 Harris employees, family members and friends help deliver meals to the homebound elderly. During the holiday season, Jennifer organizes a cookie drive where volunteers baked thousands of cookies to be included in the delivered meals.
Jennifer is particularly passionate about her volunteer work with the Brevard Zoo where she currently coordinates Harris volunteers for community construction days in support of the zoo’s Paws On Exhibit, a new children’s area sponsored by Harris. Jennifer coordinated several Harris days, overseeing employees and their family members as they worked to finalize the exhibit’s attractions. “I was proud to help my colleagues better understand the extent to which both their support and Harris’ support plays a role in the zoo’s ability to thrive as a community resource,” Jennifer said.
Jennifer has also been a strong supporter of Harris’ involvement with Habitat for Humanity. During recent Habitat home builds, Jennifer helped organize the participation of a 36-member team. She has also coordinated volunteer meals and helped purchase a washer and dryer for the home’s new residents.
Jennifer’s efforts have also led to improvements at two important centers for at-risk children. For girls across Brevard County, the Hacienda Girls Ranch in Melbourne, FL is a critical resource. The Ranch provides shelter to girls who have lost parents, been abandoned or are homeless due to abuse, neglect or emotional or behavioral problems. Jennifer acted as a team leader for Make a Difference Day at the Ranch, leading an effort to clean and refurbish one of the campus’ buildings. Jennifer and her team painted pantries, closets and doors and replaced shelving materials.
Jennifer also made an impact at the Space Coast Early Intervention Center, a therapeutic preschool designed to support young children challenged by disabilities, by participating in the construction of more than 1,000 feet of fencing for the Center.
Jennifer has been an active member of the Space Coast chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), which promotes engineering opportunities for women and empowers women to succeed and advance. She has led “Introducing Girls to Engineering” workshops and recently chaired the organization’s annual awards banquet. At the banquet, several high school girls received SWE sponsored scholarships. As a member of the scholarship selection committee, Jennifer helped select recipients. Following the event, one student wrote to the banquet committee, “I really enjoyed being around so many intelligent and inspiring women. I was totally unaware of the supportive community of women involved in the field of engineering.”
Despite her many accomplishments to date and her unique ability to inspire others, Jennifer has no plans to slow down any time soon. Later this year, she will begin serving as a member of the United Way’s Community Impact Volunteer Review Board, which helps the United Way allocate money donated to its Impact Fund. She will also join the Brevard Zoo’s Development Committee to help drive fundraising efforts and plans to help coordinate the addition of a new educational kiosk that will provide live video feeds of gorillas living on an African preserve.
“The more I volunteer, the more I want to instill my passion for volunteering in others,” Jennifer said, “I hope that my efforts have made a true difference across my community.”