Aaron Robles, 29, may be volunteering with a young organization, but the passion he shares with fellow volunteers and board members to help women in the community has been phenomenal, according to the leader of the nonprofit he works with. As St. Joseph Missions prepares to open its renovated women's shelter, its growth and openness to new ideas has allowed Robles to thrive. His profile follows:
Daytime Occupation: Founder/CEO of Founders Spark
City of birth: Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico
Current hometown: Fort Wayne
Family: Single, no kids
Volunteer position/organization: Serves as a board member, chair of the Communications Committee and member of the Nominating Committee for St. Joseph Missions
Time volunteering with the organization: Began in June 2019 to present
Why did you first get involved with the organization? Part of our commitment as the 2020 Class of Leadership Fort Wayne was to join the board of a local nonprofit. As I went through the list I felt a strong connection to St Joseph Missions. Not only did they need marketing help, which I have vast experience in, but their mission was also something dear to my heart. Supporting an organization that was looking to provide more support to women who were vulnerable and had limited help made choosing them an easy decision.
Do you have a favorite memory from volunteering? I think my favorite memory was the first time I toured the shelter. It was early in my time with the mission and walking through the shelter as it is now, before renovations, really made everything real for me. Seeing the renovation plans and the reality of what it was going to take to get everything going made me really appreciate the effort that's been put forth by everyone. It motivated me to continue to push forward and get it opened so that we can start making a difference.
What is the biggest personal benefit you receive from volunteering? The biggest personal benefit I've gotten is being a part of such a well-oiled machine when it comes to the organization. Despite still being in the early stages and growing quickly in so many aspects, everyone who's a part of the organization on any level is well-coordinated. When I came into this organization I told both Executive Director Lisa Fabian and Board President Monique Hartle that I was going to come in and be completely honest and direct with my approach. Not only did the organization take that in stride, but they embraced the changes I wanted to make. They've been so open to exploring new directions and building an organization that is inclusive, focused around the community we aim to serve and open to new ideas.
What has surprised you the most about volunteering with the organization? One of the biggest surprises for me was how involved and passionate everyone is. The level of engagement from everyone is incredible; you can really feel the impact the organization has had on everyone. Whether it be a committee meeting or a board meeting, the time we spend working together is filled with love, passion and laughter. It's one of those situations where you really grow attached to everyone who's there working toward the same goal. I can always count on feeling so fulfilled after any meeting and I'm confident that we all know why we're there and have one another's back.
What do you find most challenging? One of my major contributions has been as chair of the Communications Committee. Our challenge from the beginning was two-fold. First, we had to take what the organization is and clearly articulate that to a community that is still largely unaware of our work. Not only did we have to clearly develop our message, but we had to rebrand the organization's look to reflect who the organization was going to be for the next few decades. Our second challenge was doing that with a team that was largely new to the organization. We were able to leverage the experience of the organization's veterans and combine that with new energy and ideas to create an identity and story that honors our past while clearly establishing where we're headed in the future.
What is your strongest belief/personal philosophy about the cause? One of the strongest things that pulled me toward St. Joseph Missions is their commitment to help those women that are oftentimes vulnerable and neglected. I learned that women without children who were in dehumanizing situations did not have some of the same resources available as other homeless populations. The mission's focus on women in those situations is such a critical service that needs to be available as soon as possible. I'm proud to be a part of that.
What is the best advice you would give someone interested in volunteering or working for your cause? My best advice would simply be to reach out. The variety of ways in which people can help is massive. We're at a point where we need a wide range of help, whether that's by offering expert advice and being part of a committee or volunteering a few hours on a weekend at an event. I always encourage people to reach out and we can usually find a way for you to contribute that fits your schedule and expertise.
What are your hopes for and how do you see the organization/cause changing in the next five years? With how young we still are, we can safely assume we'll have a lot of changes in the next few years. We'll be excited to have our building ready and operational by early 2021 so that we can begin serving the women we've worked so hard for years to help. We'll also be continuing to share our message with our community so that anyone who needs our help knows that we're here to serve them.
What are your hobbies/something people might not know about you outside of your volunteering? Something that I absolutely love to do when I'm not behind a computer is to go biking. My brother originally got me into biking a few years ago and I've loved it ever since. I broke a personal record this year and biked 40 miles in a day. It's a great way for me to get out of my head since I deal with so much strategy and complex projects.
Nominator: Lisa Fabian, executive director
Reason for nomination: “We are profoundly grateful to Leadership Fort Wayne for sending Aaron our way. Aaron is chairing our Communications Committee and facilitating the development of our strategic plan, including our social media schedules and content, and will coordinate a website makeover. He has created an elegant and timeless new logo for us, and the thought process behind it encompassed our core values and the vision we have ardently embraced for our guests. His method of operation is inclusive, so his fellow board and committee members welcome his recommendations and respect his leadership. He has also been an active member of our Nominating Committee. We now have a comprehensive recruitment and evaluation process for board members, committee members and general volunteers, and Aaron has reached out to those he believes would be assets in all three categories. We have on-boarded remarkable candidates, and we look forward to matching more with our growing needs for the shelter and our guests. Aaron has served as a phenomenal ambassador for St. Joseph Missions Women's Shelter. It has been heartening to hear from his contacts how excited he is to be a vital component in fulfilling the promise of our longstanding vision.”
Organizations that wish to highlight an individual for the Volunteer Spotlight feature can contact Jessica Garvin at 260-461-8364 or email email@example.com.