When you meet and get to know Hala Shawaf Barson it’s easy to see that she really is “all about people, relationships, and community” and being a member of Impact100 SJ feeds her desire to be connected to the community in a meaningful way.
Hala was introduced to Impact100 SJ in 2017 by her friend and mentor Georgann Wardzinski and was instantly drawn to the collective giving model. Being a part of a like-minded community of women who are caring, collaborative, and love connecting and “cross pollinating ideas” was an exciting notion. But at the time she was a young professional growing her career. In 2022 the time was finally right to become a member.
Being a member has been a wonderful experience and Hala actively participates on the Grant Review and Grant Finance Review committees. Indeed, learning about the grant making process and philanthropy is one of the most rewarding aspects of membership, along with feeling that her contribution is creating real impact. She has found the process to be “interesting, engaging, rewarding, empowering” and loves how the committee chairs encourage members to take ownership of a piece of the process. Hala anticipates being a longtime member of Impact100 SJ and hopes to be a part of its growth and evolution.
Membership is a continuation of the values of community involvement and in giving back instilled in Hala by her family. Early in her career she met people who involved her in philanthropy as a young professional. She intentionally surrounded herself with good humans engaged in community and had wonderful mentors who introduced her to nonprofits, which led to appointments on several nonprofit boards. Her current board positions include: Perkins Center for the Arts, Maryville Addiction Treatment Center Leadership Council, and South Jersey Young Professionals (SJYPA). With a degree in Fine Arts, Hala has merged her business savvy with her passion for art making and is currently gathering support to develop an “Art as Therapeutic Practice” community program that can be implemented simply and effectively at low-to-no cost in behavioral health/addiction treatment centers to foster healing and improved long-term health outcomes.
In 2019, Hala co-founded VoIP Doctors Telecommunications with Mike Barson whom she married in 2021. The company addresses an unmet demand for cybersecurity-focused, solutions-driven, efficiency-centered telecommunications services with fair and transparent billing practices. They are passionate believers in the benefits of leveraging technology to empower organizations and their workforces. Hala supports the business community in South Jersey too. She is honored to serve as Chair of the Small Business Council and an Ambassador at the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey, a women-led economic empowerment organization which provides access to regional resources to help businesses thrive. Most recently, she was named a South Jersey Magazine’s 2022 Superwoman, one of 15 women selflessly dedicated to their SJ community and neighbors. In her spare time, Hala is passionate about artmaking. She shared, “It’s an important personal process and when I neglect it I really miss it. Artmaking is an iterative process – the end product is a result of repetitive, meditative production– it’s an evolution. The work and process help improve problem solving skills and provide time for reflection.” She sees the Impact100 philanthropic processes in the same light and enjoys that aspect of membership. A self-professed “Third Culture Kid,” she is a first-generation American on her father’s side and often felt suspended between two worlds, Old and New. Finding, building, and sharing community and belonging has been her life’s journey and she is proud to be a valuable member of this community.