A local hunger relief agency is saying goodbye to its longtime CEO. Jennifer Vigran has retired after 20 years of service with Second Helpings. The organization assists those experiencing food insecurity. WFYI’s Terri Dee spoke with Vigran about her work with the organization and what achievements she would most like to be remembered by.
WFYI’s Terri Dee: You've been with Second Helpings for 20 years. What drew you to the organization and why do you think your background, your education and your skill set would be a good fit for the organization?
Jennifer Vigran, CEO, Second Helpings: I started with Second Helpings as a volunteer 20 years ago; the organization was then really, really young, it was three years old. I had, like others, seen some media about the start of this new organization, and was intrigued by the model. My congregation actually had a soup kitchen kind of program. We were getting a feeling that the program was as effective as we wanted it to be and we decided we were going to dedicate the volunteers and the money that we were putting into that program, instead to this brand new organization called Second Helpings. I recall having someone come to introduce the organization to us, and they brought a video with them and this person was a member of the Second Helpings staff. He presented this video, as I'm watching the video, I'm also watching him. He was tearing up watching the video of the Second Helpings graduates who were finishing their training. I realized he had seen that video dozens of times; he was in the video. He was there when this happened, but it still was something that moved him to that level. I resolved then, if there was an organization whose staff was that passionate about the work that they did, that was something I wanted to learn more about and get involved in. My background was in labor and human resources in the private and public sector. I worked in fundraising for the organization and I'd been a board member and in 2010, I became the interim CEO, and I have been here ever since
Dee: That is quite a story. Can you share any experiences or occurrences that you would like to be most remembered by?
Vigran: I'm awfully proud of the work we did in 2012 to make sure we had enough capacity to double the size of our hunger relief program. As a part of that, the very first organization that we brought on board from our waiting list was the Boys and Girls Clubs of Indianapolis. That's a partnership where kids who might not get dinner that night, or get a good nutritious meal at the end of the day. I remember about a year later I was in a club and as I was walking through that club with our board chair at the time, we noticed that there were Second Helpings meals sitting in their cooler waiting to be warmed up and served. We looked at it and we realized that all the kids we saw playing in that facility were going to get dinner that night, because of the work that we had done. I'd say the other thing that I am particularly proud of is the way this organization partnered with other hunger relief organizations in the city and responded so quickly to the needs that presented themselves when the pandemic hit.
Dee: Thank you for sharing your story as you head into retirement.
Vigran: Thank you so much for having me.