Dawn Hunter was introduced to Impact100 SJ in 2019 as part of the team that applied for the $100,000 grant awarded to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cumberland and Salem Counties. Her meeting with grant review committee members left a first great impression.
A few weeks later, she was introduced to leadership council member Angela Venti at a meeting of the Vineland Chamber of Commerce where Dawn is Executive Director. “I was feeling so grateful that Big Brothers Big Sisters was the grant recipient and then I met Angela. It just seemed like more than a coincidence, so I decided to join and give back.”
The $100,000 grant supports Big Brothers Big Sisters’ new program, Mentor 2.0, which pairs ‘Bigs’ with high school students so they can receive guidance about college, the military or vocational training. The idea is to make it easy for busy professionals to volunteer. “Being a ‘Big’ traditionally requires that you plan independently. With Mentor 2.0, the mentoring sessions are designed and structured on a web-based platform. Mentoring by using technology will help us reach so many more youth.” Dawn explains.
“The beauty of this program is that we are spreading the joy of mentorship to more people, both men and women, while helping more young people. Some of them will be the first in their family to graduate from high school and many of them have no one else to turn to but Big Brothers Big Sisters.”
The online program seems prescient, given how COVID-19 has moved everyone online, including the Vineland Chamber of Commerce. It’s forced a total shift of operations, Dawn acknowledges. “Our events have all been cancelled, but it has also put a sharper focus on our role as advocates and educators. The Chamber has become a light in the storm for the business community as we disseminate information about federal and state economic stimulus programs and promote business-friendly policies with elected officials.”
She believes that the business world will be forever changed and describes some of the opportunities she’s witnessing in Cumberland County. “I see the evolution of businesses that are thriving—scientific glass companies, commercial cleaning businesses, and technology businesses, just to name a few.”
Dawn knows the power of community from her work with the Chamber and it’s one of the things that drew her to Impact100 SJ. “The collective impact of all of these lovely women is powerful. Together we can transform lives and there’s no better proof than the Mentor 2.0 program.”
When she’s not leading the work of the Chamber, Dawn is a huge sports fan. “The only saving grace about the pandemic relating to sports, was that it started between the lull between football and baseball. The fact that sports don’t exist right now is a bit of a challenge for me.”