Jill comes to SSVP with a long-held passion of serving the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, along with a history of holding professional leadership positions at several local non-profit organizations. The Society’s Council and Board President, Kevin Grode, shares his thoughts on the selection: "We are very excited to have Jill come on board as our new Executive Director. While new to SSVP, Jill’s education, work and life experiences – including her extensive contributions to the underserved – fit perfectly with the SSVP mission of serving our neighbors in need."
Jill is married to her husband, Sergio, and they live in Omaha. They have two adult children – Lizzy who is 27 and Christian who is 25.
While Jill was born in Omaha, her family moved often, as her father worked for Burlington Northern Railroad. As her most formative years were in Fort Worth, Texas, Jill considers that city as where she “grew up” and which is where she graduated from high school.
With family living in and around Omaha, Jill attended the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and subsequently transferred to, and graduated from UNO with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Spanish. Jill later earned a master’s in Business Administration from Bellevue University.
Following college, Jill looked for and found an international volunteer opportunity with a non-profit organization where she could truly “immerse” herself in a foreign culture, one which allowed her to respond to her developing passion for serving those who are truly in need. Jill found such an organization in the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, a lay Catholic organization based in Kansas City.
Volunteering with CFCA for four years, Jill spent the first two in the Mexican town of Tacambaro, Michoacan. In this volunteer experience, Jill lived and worked in an orphanage run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In addition to assisting with the care of the children, Jill garnered community support for the orphanage from local businesses and professionals in the form of food, footwear, and preventative dental visits. Jill’s second two-year volunteer experience with CFCA was in the department/state of Huehuetenango, Guatemala. She lived with Franciscan nuns while helping a local priest and pastoral team with their critical outreach work, as well as assuming a number of administrative duties for the CFCA organization.
At the time, Guatemala was in the midst of a civil war which, states Jill, “was very eye-opening. As an American, we hadn’t heard about the conflicts and strife that this country was going through. This war was terribly hard on the country’s residents, and which further exacerbated the poverty so many of them were living in.”
During her time volunteering, Jill not only vastly improved her Spanish-speaking and writing skills, she also “found purpose” in her life. Continues Jill: “These experiences reinforced what I was learning about myself, that my ‘calling’ in life is to serve people in need. During those years, I discovered that I simply had to answer that call to serve the underserved. I also learned something as equally as important to me, which was to truly be present to the people I was serving…to see them as ‘people’, and not just some charity case. And, in heeding this call to service, I also realized that that was when I was most at peace with myself and with my life, something I’ve carried with me throughout my professional career.”
After living and volunteering in Guatemala for the two years she’d committed to, Jill realized she didn’t want to leave. “I’d fallen in love with the country”, shares Jill, “and I knew that my work was not finished, so I stayed two more years, working with the local diocese.”
Not only did Jill fall in love with Guatemala, she also fell in love with, and married her husband, Sergio. Lizzy was also born in Guatemala.
Jill, Sergio and Lizzy returned to the United States, in 1997, moving to Omaha in 1998, which is when Jill began her professional career. Jill initially held leadership positions on the business side and, later, the clinical side at Quality Living Inc. (QLI) – a local residential non-profit organization primarily focused on caring for people suffering from a head injury or stroke. In 2010, Jill changed organizations, overseeing various clinical operations at Nebraska Medicine, being promoted twice before leaving the hospital system in 2019. From 2019 through 2022, Jill served in a leadership role with the Heartland Workers Center, a local non-profit organization serving immigrants and underserved communities, fostering civic engagement, developing leaders, and promoting workers’ rights.
When we asked Jill about why she decided to apply for the SSVP Executive Director position, Jill shared: “As I was considering my next career move, I was very selective. I knew in my heart that I wanted to be with an organization whose mission coincided with my passion of serving the underserved. The Society definitely checks that box! I also knew my experience working in the `business world’ of the hospital system would help me in the administrative and organizational leadership aspects of the job. Frankly, when I heard that the Executive Director position was open, I nearly jumped at the opportunity to apply.”
In reflecting on the clientele that the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Omaha serves, Jill shares: “I think it’s important for people to understand that a financial calamity, a financial crisis could happen to any of us, at any time. The people we serve could very well be your loved one, or your neighbor…or it could be you! It is not our job to judge, but to be supportive of, and be present with those we serve. I’ll say it again…People need to be seen as 'people,' and not as a charity case.”
In closing, Jill states: “I’m really excited that I’ve been given this opportunity to join the Society. I know I have big shoes to fill, and I know I have a lot to learn. And I’m willing to listen and learn and to see how I can be most helpful to the Vincentian volunteers and parish conferences, to the staff…and especially to the people who find themselves in need of our assistance.”