Meet Jennifer Hockenberger!
A familiar face that you’ve seen at the Habitat office, ReStore, and countless Habitat fundraising events is Jennifer Hockenberger.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, Jen!
Where is your hometown?
Jennifer was born and raised in Point Place, Ohio, right on the border of Ohio and Michigan. She moved to Monroe County 5 years ago and loves being a resident of the mitten! She has been happily married to her devoted husband since 2015 and has two sons that will be attending a Montessori school in Monroe.
Before Habitat: What did you do before applying to this non-profit organization?
Jennifer graduated from Lourdes College with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Management. Before Jennifer came to work for us at Habitat, she had many different jobs. She worked for a cardiologist while attending Lourdes College, as a marketing “person” for a plastic surgeon and later for Toledo Casino. Although she enjoyed her jobs, she felt that she was missing a purpose.
What was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?
Jennifer’s most interesting jobs had to do with taking care of animals. She used to be a dog walker, cat sitter, and a Day Keeper at Nature’s Nursery. She was able to help rehabilitate animals such as bald eagles, squirrels, and blue herons, and help them get back into the wild.
How did you first learn about Habitat Monroe, and what is your role now?
“I learned about Habitat through social media, specifically Facebook. There was a post about them needing help with social media and volunteer coordination. I was ready to take on that opportunity. I am now the Director of Fundraising and Media Relations. I work with a supportive community that helps by donating time and resources to further Habitat’s mission. I most like networking and relationship development: making and deepening relationships with community members.”
How do you balance your career at Habitat and your family?
“I’m still learning, and it can be challenging with a 2 and 4-year-old. They are very demanding, but in the best of ways. I am blessed to have a career that allows me to do something that my kids can be proud of. I am still figuring out how to turn the mom-brain off at work, and turning the Habitat-brain off at home. If anyone has any tips, I’d love some.”
What do you like to do on your days off?
“I’m a big bird-nerd and love anything to do with outdoor activities. I have 10 acres at home, so during all seasons we are outside enjoying nature.”
How do you think Habitat will help you in your career development?
“I am constantly in awe by my connections with leaders and organizations in the community through Habitat. There is a sense of pride and family that propels Monroe forward. I’m constantly learning from coworkers on being a better person.”
What would you consider to be your strengths and weaknesses?
“I believe my strength is my ability to create meaningful relationships with people. I am genuinely interested in learning about what makes a person tick, what excites them, what drives them. It is very important in relationship development. My weakness is that I have very thin skin. When you hear “no” a million times, asking for funds is a challenge, but is something I am getting better at.”
How have you felt since you’ve arrived?
“There is still excitement, especially with this affiliate. There’s always something new. We have a need to push forward to create affordable housing awareness, find assistance for veterans, and offer the public an opportunity to be selfless. We receive so much by giving.”
What is the largest obstacle that you faced during your time here, and how did you overcome this challenge?
“The largest obstacle I’ve faced is generating funding. With the ever-growing cost of lumber supplies and labor, it is extremely challenging to offset the deficit of upwards of $60,000 on a home.The challenge is to ignite the fire in current supporters and donors, as well as to acquire new support through relationships with this community.”
How are employees empowered to help shape/participate in the office culture at Habitat?
“Each department immerses itself in fully understanding how their role helps further the mission of Habitat. Another side is because we are a small organization, we all have to wear many different hats. The ability of our employees to learn more about each department allows them to have a glimpse into the affiliate as a whole. When employees work at our events, they get to see fundraising at its finest. When employees spend time on the build site, building and meeting homeowners and volunteers, they get to go back to the grassroots to see how the community is rolling up their sleeves, ready to build for a family partner. It allows an employee to understand why we’re all doing what we’re doing, providing a hand up, not a handout.”
What has been your favorite experience or project thus far?
“I am most proud of our Project Serve Veteran Program that was created from nothing. I love working closely with Veteran organizations, like Little Blessings, who has been monumentally supportive in the success of this program. This project has opened our eyes to organizations like Home Depot that have given selflessly of their volunteer labor and funds to help veterans in our community gain independence back, and have safe access to their homes.”
What is on your wish list for the next 5 years? Would you change anything about working for Habitat?
“I wish to continue growing as an affiliate, to help serve as many people as we can. I’d also love for every event and every initiative to grow to its fullest potential, to help support safe, decent, and affordable housing in Monroe County.
“I’d like the ReStore and affiliate to live in the same building, under the same roof. To see the benefit of the donations that come in from this community. I believe working hand-in-hand with the ReStore would be beneficial for Habitat Monroe.”
Tell us something about yourself that will surprise us!
“I love board games, trivia, and relationship building games. I enjoy deepening relationships, and finding games that work for both introverts and extroverts.”
What are you looking forward to in the coming year?
“I am looking forward to the Playhouse Build coming up in August. It is an awesome and unique opportunity to bring the excitement that comes with building a Habitat home, into a one-stop shop of 5 hours: Playhouse Blitz Build Extravaganza. We’ll get to see the start to finish process of building a playhouse from the ground up for a child. We’ll experience the excitement of a family and child. We’ll inspire the love of a home by building these little houses and allowing the families to take them home the same day.”
Jennifer encourages others to challenge themselves. “Keep pushing,” she says. “Remember the biggest way to succeed is to have faith, and trust that what you’re doing, mistakes and all, will pay off with hard work and determination.”
We are wonderfully blessed to have Jen on our Habitat Monroe team. If you see Jen at our office, or one of our events, make sure to say hi!