We recently held our second annual Community Connection Awards and Recognition dinner, where we celebrated the crewmembers who spent more than 100 hours volunteering last year. Between time spent at work, day-to-day running around, and quality time with family and friends, it can be difficult to find a few hours of giving back, let alone 100 hours! But since our crewmembers are inherently caring, they proactively carved out time to give back to their communities. Below are a few crewmembers who our Corporate Social Responsibility team honored.
Ellen Berris, First Officer A320 (FLL)
Ellen started volunteering her time years ago when her two children were in pre-school, and quickly learned that being a Pilot is fascinating to little kids.
Initially, Ellen served as a guest speaker in the classroom and over time, this became more frequent and expanded to include appearances at the elementary and high schools. She’s also part of a lecture series for adult education and senior citizens. To her, it’s an honor to talk about aviation and possibly spark a few careers in our industry.
It’s important to Ellen that her children see her volunteering within their elementary school, Little League teams, and Children’s Theater group program so that they understand the importance of giving back to the community. She believes that the best way to teach them the value of hard work and dedication to the causes you’re passionate about is to lead by example.
Ellen is on hand for whatever is needed—she’s your go-to gal for assisting with lunch duty, helping out in the classrooms, working the Little League conscession stand, costume changes and prop placement, and more. Her favorite volunteer moment is the Annual Meyer Academy field trip to JetBlue. The school, located in West Palm Beach, coordinates a visit each year and Ellen is there to show them around the flight deck, and teach them about the importance of teamwork in aviation.
Ronald Williams, Airport Operations (SLC)
Works with physically disabled children
Ronald is one of the founders of The OpportunityFoundation of America. The organization aims to improve the quality of life for physically disabled children and adults, and has partnered with Boston College to develop assistive technology called EagleEyes (Boston College’s mascot is the eagle). The technology allows individuals, most of whom can’t speak and can only move their eyes and head, to communicate via a computer screen by moving their eyes. Complete with recreation, education, and communication programs, the technology has greatly helped these individuals to develop at an impressive pace.
Ronald volunteers approximately 30 hours a month, and he oversees fundraising and marketing initiatives, as well as working with disabled children who receive an EagleEye system. “To watch them learn and discover for the first time that they have control of something, and can communicate is my favorite thing ever,” says Ronald.
Gregory Atchley, Solutions Developer (OSC)
Volunteer at Gives Kids the World
Give Kids the World is a nonprofit story book resort in central Florida, where children with life-threatening diseases and their families, can escape for an all expenses paid trip, courtesy of “wish” organizations like the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Greg has been involved with Give Kids the World since the early ‘90s, and spends as much time at the resort as his schedule allows—sometimes up to three nights per week. Dressed in character, Greg is the village’s “Mayor Clayton,” and welcomes the children at nightly parties at the resort, where attendees sing, dance, and play.
Greg told us about his favorite volunteer moment, while he was volunteering at a Give Kids the World event—Ice Cream for Breakfast!—in Stamford, CT. A little girl gave “Mayor Clayton,” or Greg, a hug and shared that she is officially in remission. She thanked him and said, “I am healthy because of my trip to see you!”
Bonni Simi, VP Talent (LSC)
Luge coach for youth
Bonny has always had a passion for recruiting and developing talent. When she isn’t leading our Talent programs here at JetBlue, she’s coaching two winter sports: luge and bobsledding. Yes, our current VP of Talent is a three-time luge Olympian, and for the past 30 years has channeled her love for the game into a meaningful volunteer experience.
Bonny spends time in both Salt Lake City and New York for work, and makes time to volunteer in Park City, Utah and Lake Placid, New York—home to the only two luge and bobsled tracks in the U.S. Here, she trains the local youth, nearly every weekend throughout the winter. Bonny has coached thousands of young kids, dozens of national champions, and even a handful of Olympians. She is also an internationally certified to judge races luge and bobsledding. While she has numerous moments of sheer gratification from coaching—those times when she felt like she was making a difference—Bonny’s proudest moment ever was watching one of her students become the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal.
Vonetta Flowers won the gold in 2002 for bobsledding, just a few years after Bonny had recruited her to the sport and personally coached her to world class status!