Name in the News is a weekly spotlight on someone in the North Druid Hills-Briarcliff community making (or working to make) an impact. This week, we highlight Camille Kesler, the new president of the Junior League of Atlanta, a well-known nonprofit that advocates for women and children.
Name: Camille Kesler
Community: Sagamore Hills
Occupation: Freelance Communications Consultant, Professional Volunteer and Mom/Wife Extraordinaire
Hobbies: Baking desserts with lots of real butter and sugar; reading historical fiction, anything involving the South and "chick lit"; hikes with my husband and daughters at Sweetwater Creek; watching professional tennis; working out in the Turbo Kick class at Athletic Club Northeast
Favorite thing about living in the North Druid Hills-Briarcliff community: I love the close proximity to everything! I can get to the symphony in 10 minutes, and equally important, I can get to Krispy Kreme in 15 minutes. You can't beat that. I also love the bucolic setting of North Druid Hills. The abundant trees, flowers and beautiful homes make me feel enveloped in beauty wherever I go.
1) Why did you get involved with the Junior League of Atlanta?
I joined the Junior League of Atlanta to make an impact. I had recently left my job as H.R. director and was looking for a way to use my knowledge and skillset to stay relevant and be of use. JLA offered that and much more. JLA's biggest advantage is in serving as a medium to pool resources and talents, to step beyond the minutiae and get things done. I wanted to serve and see the league continue to use its resources to help women and children in need in the community.
2) Your organization is dedicated to improving the lives of women and developing their potential. What's the biggest roadblock to that goal, and is there anything people should know about that issue that they don't?
The biggest roadblock is financing and fundraising. In these challenging economic times, we have seen a decrease in net revenue from our fundraisers, especially our long-standing Nearly New Thrift Store. It's difficult for us because we see needs throughout the city that we want to address, but we – as all non-profits these days – have to be more selective and stringent than we would like to be. Finding ways to get the word out about our efforts and work is also a big part of that. I really feel like if more people knew what we have done, like starting the Atlanta Speech School, Atlanta Children's Shelter, CHRIS Kids, TreesAtlanta, Power Over Prejudice Summit and the state's first hot lunch program in schools, and what we are doing now with our Early Childhood Education Initiative and preventing child sex trafficking, more people would want to get involved and support our efforts. I'm incredibly proud of the fact that even in these difficult financial times the JLA still gave $200,000 in grants and funding to our nonprofit partners this year. Our partners are hurting and rely on us, and we didn't let them down.
3) Most people don't volunteer. I imagine being president of an organization like this is time-intensive. What have you sacrificed to volunteer, and has it been worth it?
Being president of a 4,000-strong women's volunteer organization and managing staff at two locations (our headquarters and thrift store) is a full time job. We are the third-largest Junior League in the world, which encompasses 293 leagues. I am essentially the CEO of a $2 million-per-year organization and I don't earn a dollar for my efforts. All that I do, I do because of my love of this organization, its members and those we aim to serve. It's been such an honor to me to serve in this capacity. I recently attended the National Center for Civil and Human Rights groundbreaking ceremony and luncheon and looked around the room and held my breath. I was afraid if I exhaled I would wake up from this dream. In that audience were people who walk tall and do big things, and there I was among the crowd representing the Junior League of Atlanta. It was both surreal and empowering. Such a proud moment for me personally, for the JLA to have a seat at the table and for our city, state and nation.
4) If you could improve the North Druid Hills-Briarcliff community in any way – with no limitations – what would you do and why?
I would make architectural improvements, reduce traffic and encourage small business development and investment. I would also pepper the landscape with Krispy Kreme franchises.