Meet Jane Skeeter

Jane is a recent winner of the Fernando Award, the highest award for volunteerism and philanthropy in the San Fernando Valley. She wields her business skills to support and transform her community, most notably through her work with the Boys and Girls Club and with Woodbury University. Jane continues to volunteer, and to meet some of the needs that she sees in our Valleys.

You’re an engaged member of multiple nonprofit organizations throughout the San Fernando Valley. What made you interested in this kind of work?

I’m interested in it because I’ve lived here for a long time and grew up here in the Valley. So it feels like giving back, and getting to see the direct results in my community. I used to be more involved with organizations that were LA-centered, but I found it easier to make connections and build relationships in the Valley. Right here we have a great community and it’s plenty big, so I don’t need to go downtown to LA. 

Can you tell us about the nonprofits you’re at currently engaged with? What are the challenges you see these nonprofits facing and what needs to be done for these challenges to be overcome?

My prime focus is kids, and I’ve been a board member for about 14 years with the Boys and Girls Club of the West Valley. I choose them because they have kids in need. We help a lot of families stay on their feet or get back on their feet, especially those with one or two parents working. We seek to change that cycle of poverty, to let the kid break out of that and to help them have a viable future. I feel like we’re really making a big difference in their lives and their families’ lives in terms of supporting them to get into higher education and to go on to have successful careers.

I’m also involved with Woodbury University. I’m chair of the Board of Advisors for the Business School. We get involved in supporting students that need help, but also changing the curriculum when needed so that it stays relevant. Woodbury is accredited, and we are always working to maintain that status through the re-accreditation process so that we can stay a prestigious institution and keep our enrollment rates high. 

I’m engaged with the Valley Economic Alliance to better the lives of people in their businesses and work here in the Valley, and I’m also involved with the Valley Industry and Commerce Association. These organizations seek to support small businesses mostly.

Lastly, I’m engaged with the Fernando Foundation. As the current recipient of their award, I have a heightened interest in making the organization better known and making sure funding is available for them. The Fernando Foundation seeks to encourage and reward people who volunteer and who are leaders in the community.

The challenge is always funding. For the young adults at Boys and Girls Club, it’s scholarships. For other organizations, the challenge is to raise funding through grants, and to raise awareness of these organizations so that when people do have an interest in participation, or want to let their voices be known, they are empowered in their involvement. 

What do you look for in an organization before getting involved? What really made you interested in kids in community improvement?

When I think about mitigating social issues, and organizations that work to do that, I want to nip it in the bud. I want to look at where we can have the greatest ripple effects. I think it’s with our youth. I want us to help build a better community and better environment so that kids can become leaders and help perpetuate that snowball effect. I think that we can leverage the effort and the money that we put into our kids now, instead of paying a lot of money after they’ve gone in the wrong direction. If we can give them the support that they need and the guidance and encouragement early, I think they’re going to turn out to be better citizens and more responsible leaders themselves. That’s my goal. I also want to inspire others to participate, whether it’s through their volunteerism or their financial support. 

With the Community Foundation of the Valleys, I think they’re a great overarching community organization that prioritizes communication and collaboration that will help shortcut all the work we are trying to make. I see CFV as a great hub of information as well as collecting and distributing funding. CFV has the knowledge and the facts and figures for all the organizations, both those that give and those that want to receive. It’s a multi-faced organization that is productive and needed. 

What are the next steps that you hope to see for the Valleys in terms of giving locally, as well as overall social and economic progress?

It’s well known that we have a lot of wealth in the Valley but it’s not spent here. The dollars and a lot of time are given to communities and locations outside the Valley, whether it’s Los Angeles, the county, the state or nationally. So part of what I do – to answer the previous question – is to raise people’s awareness of these opportunities and the situation in general. I don’t think people realize that we have a great need right here in the Valley.

What steps do you see for the San Fernando Valley going forward? And in terms of giving locally, and overall social and economic progress?

 I give a lot of credit to the organizations that I mentioned. I think they’re doing a lot. I am encouraged by people that I talk to and meet who are focused on helping kids and the environment. It takes money, and it takes energy. Those are the two big things. We need to make everyone aware, and not just residents, but our elected officials as well. These leaders need to know how they can contribute. By raising this awareness, then we’re at the forefront of their minds when they have money to give or want to participate and contribute, which I hope they do.