PM360 recently spoke to Julie Holcombe, Senior Director, Marketing, Synergy Pharmaceuticals, about the need to support young adults aging out of foster care.
PM360: Tell me about the non-profit you are involved with.
Julie Holcombe: The R.J. Leonard Foundation (RJLF) is a non-profit organization that works in Bucks and Montgomery Counties of Pennsylvania with young adults who are aging out of the foster care system. At 18, they are expected to be self-sufficient, but in the majority of cases they fall back onto the welfare system without an education, financial support, and social network. The RJLF matches them with a lifelong mentor and provides them with financial assistance to facilitate their graduation from higher education and transition into the work force, as well scholarships for transportation and social enrichment.
When did you first get involved with them?
I started volunteering with them in 2012 after the woman who began the RJLF, Jo Leonard, told me about their work. I felt so naive for not ever considering that kids in the system really don’t have anyone to guide them. I just felt awful for these kids, and I was horrified when I saw some of the frightening and sad statistics of where life takes them. For example, only 3% go on to earn a college degree—and that’s not for lack of desire or ability! In addition, 40% end up homeless at some time in their lives, while the majority depend on government financial assistance. It’s a societal, economic, and human issue that is largely unappreciated and ignored.
How has your involvement with the RJLF evolved over the years?
Jo approached me as she was looking to build the foundation’s Board of Directors during its infancy with moms who had previous non-profit involvement and a track record of business success in for-profit business. My main areas of focus in the two years I served on the board were helping to define the focus of the organization as a whole, identifying the scope of services offered, and helping to network with local philanthropists who may be able to offer assistance for longer-term sustainability. After a few years, I moved into my current role as a Board Advisor, which allows me to stay involved with the organization’s operations as needed but gives me the time and flexibility to get more involved on the fundraising side as well.
What other non-profits have you worked with?
I have worked with March of Dimes, and still make a point to participate in a fundraising activity on their behalf on a regular basis. This organization holds a special place in my heart, as my twins—who are now gigantic 14 year olds—were tiny preemies when they were born. Their first few months were rough, but thanks to the research and medical advances that the March of Dimes has supported on behalf of premature babies over the years, my kids not only survived, but also have thrived. I owe them more than I can possibly explain.