Cake Connoisseur and Program Director of CASA of CGS
A determined mother’s career-changing leap of faith from journalism to the nonprofit sector, and her vital role in the well-being of children in our South Jersey communities.
With the ring of her puppy potty bell, Jenn shuffles to the door to let out her precious Boston Terrier named Vinnie, and circles back to the table to re-immerse herself in her work. With two dogs, two cats, and a house full of boys, Jenn definitely has her hands full working from home—but that has not disrupted her devotion and enthusiasm for her job and her community.
For the past seven years, Jennifer Henderson has played a myriad of invaluable roles for the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem Counties (CASA of CGS), and for the past seven years she has been thankful for each day that she is able to help a child and give back to others.
Jenn spent her childhood in the press room of the Bridgeton Evening News with her grandmother, a reporter of over 40 years, marveling at the puzzle-piece construction of newspapers. When she turned 18, she followed in her grandmother’s footsteps, serving as the Desk Editor for the Bridgeton Evening News for a decade. Unlikely enough, this experience built the foundation for her career with CASA of CGS in the near future.
After filing her own paperwork for her divorce, Jenn was inspired to pursue a degree that would allow her to help children and families and use her own experiences to make a difference in someone’s life. Showing her children that their mother could do anything she set her mind to, she enrolled at Cumberland County College (now Rowan College of South Jersey), where an uncanny invitation from a professor soon changed the course of her life.
What a strange place to meet for a job interview, she thought, as she pulled into the parking lot of a diner her professor invited her to meet him and a potential employer at. Under the impression her professor was introducing her to a prospective job with a lawyer, as she entered the building, she was surprised to be greeted by a table full of beautifully diverse individuals from CASA of CGS. That night she met Melissa Helmbrecht, Executive Director of CASA of CGS and Founder of Hopeloft, learned about CASA, and decided to join the team. After going through training, she discovered that this was what she was always meant to do.
Melissa offered Jenn a position as a writer for CASA of CGS a few months after becoming a volunteer advocate, allowing her to merge her experience as an editor with her passion for giving back to others. Month after month, Jenn climbed through different roles in the organization, finally leading to her current position as the Program Director, through which she serves as a community liaison, relationship builder, and networker; supports the volunteers in the three counties they serve; and oversees the entire program.
Since becoming the Program Director, Jenn has grown CASA of CGS’s program from serving 125 children to 432 children today, and has helped 781 children over the entire course of her time at CASA of CGS. And thanks to the care and support Jenn provides to her volunteers, CASA of CGS boasts the highest rate of volunteer retention in the state—a remarkable achievement that could not have been met without her commitment to the program and love for her team.
"I cannot give Jennifer enough praise," says Dot Mason, CASA of CGS Salem County Volunteer Advocate. "From the first day I met her, I knew our collaboration would change my life. I have never before had a leader that always put others first. But I realized immediately that Jenn was so caring and works tirelessly to ensure CASA is valuable to the courts and the children we serve.
Jenn is always available to help, even with the myriad projects on her plate. She has developed an excellent staff and group of volunteers by being a cheerleader and mentor for them and always making them aware of their powerful imprints on the lives of the children. Her professional yet down-to-earth and caring attitude is refreshing. They don't come any better than Jennifer."
Each passing day spent in this line of work, Jenn realizes how helpful she can be in supporting people and not only building a great culture within CASA of CGS, but also between other programs, which has been made possible through CASA of CGS’s role in the Hopeloft network.
Rooted in the heart of Bridgeton, Hopeloft houses people and projects dedicated to solving serious social problems. Under the Hopeloft umbrella, CASA of CGS has immediate access to resources for the children they serve through the organization’s collaboration with a body of partner organizations that complete the growing Hopeloft team. The accessibility to partnerships and resources provided by the Hopeloft web are essential to the continued prosperity of not just CASA of CGS or any of the organizations operating out of the Hopeloft building, but, importantly, to the well-being and success of the children and families that all of Hopeloft's vital organizations and programs serve.
In the midst of these uncertain times, Jenn is, now more than ever, committed to staying connected and keeping her team inspired and motivated to ignite change in our community both safely and virtually. Like the rest of her dedicated team, she has devoted her life to giving back, and her compassion for others never goes unnoticed.
When she isn’t working, you can find Jenn spending time with her husband and children, meticulously building and decorating her miniature doll house, baking layered cakes with her son Jake, and playing with her precious one-year-old puppy Vinnie.