TURNING ON THE JUICE
Jason and I met in the fall of 2012 at a strategic planning session for the Chicago Chapter of the National Urban Fellows. He immediately captured my attention with his poise and presence but I quickly realized that he was a man of substance as well. During the meeting, Jason was quick to contribute insights, ask questions and offer assistance. I immediately added him to my list of people to know. Jason was kind enough to answer some probing questions this past December. An alternate version of this interview has also been published on the Chicago Defender blog.
- HomeTown: Detroit, MI
- Personal Moto: Have a vision and be demanding.
- Words of Wisdom: Be careful what you choose. You may get it.
- Currently Reading: It Worked For Me by Colin Powell
- Last Vacation Location: Puerta Plata, Dominican Republic
- Currently listening to: good Kid m.A.A.d city by Kendrick Lamar
- Favorite Past time: Running – ran Detroit marathon this year
- Supported Charities: Charity Water, Oceana, PAWS Chicago
- Alma Mater: University of Michigan
- Nickname: I was called “Juice” until I was 12 because I could “turn on the juice” and run really fast.
- Guilty Pleasure: Reality TV
- Biggest Wish: To race the Boston Marathon
- Favorite Sports Team: Detroit Tigers, Lions, and Pistons
- Favorite T.V Show: Game of Thrones
SC: Jason, tell us a bit about your childhood. Where were you born and what was your family like?
JG: I was born and raised in Detroit. Although I am an only child, my cousins and I spent so much time together, it was like I had brothers and sisters. My mother’s brother was and continues to be a very strong male influence in my life. He went out of his way to make sure that he spent time with me, talked to me about life, love, responsibility and loss. He exposed me to different experiences to broaden my thinking and outlook on what it means to live a fulfilled, passionate, and dedicated life of service. He really molded my philosophy on not only what it means to be a responsible citizen but also a reliable and dependable man. My mother wholeheartedly supported this too. Any recommendation that he made to her regarding my education, any necessary disciplinary action, or what psychological approach to take to “get into my head”, she followed to the letter. And I love and appreciate them both for that. It also helped that I grew up around several strong women. From my grandmother to my mother to my aunties, I was not allowed to get away with anything. I was such a precocious and curious child that if left without guidance, I could easily get distracted. My family was always there and continues to be. Overall, I would say I had a very fortunate and memorable childhood.
SC: When did you move to Chicago and why?
JG: I moved to Chicago in October of 2010. It was exciting and intimidating at the same time. I never lived outside of Michigan. My wife works for a national consulting organization and they offered her a promotion to a senior level position here in Chicago. I was working as a Chief Compliance Officer & Academic Grant Writer for Covenant House Academies in Detroit. Covenant House is a really great organization and I really enjoyed the work and the team that I worked with but it was just something about the promise of living in a new and thriving city that was so attractive to me. So, in a nutshell, I followed a strong woman. Eventually, I would like to be able to return to Detroit and contribute to the resurgence of the city. The motto of Detroit is “Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus” which translates into “We Hope For Better Things; It Shall Rise From the Ashes”. I sincerely believe I have a duty to try to embody that hope and contribute to the resurrection. Don’t get me wrong, I am really attracted to Chicago but Detroit and I have a romantic and passionate love affair.
SC: Do you have family here in Chicago?
JG: I have greek family here in Chicago. I am a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
SC: You are currently Manager of Foundation & Government Grants at Access Living. How did you come to work there?
JG: Actually my wife received a promotion with her job that required her to move to Chicago. It was my last day in Detroit, and I was filled with so many emotions. I was excited because I was still in the infatuation phase of my love affair with Chicago but I was also very anxious because I was driving to start a new life in a new city. As I was driving, I received a call from Mimi Alschuler (Director of Development) inviting me to come in for an interview. As soon as I came in the door, I knew it was the place for me. It just had a good vibe and something told me that is where I belonged.
SC: Were you always interested in non-profit work? If so, are there any particular causes which draw your interest the most?
JG: I have always been interested in offering service above myself for others.
SC: What is the focus of Access Living?
JG: The mission of Access Living is to foster the dignity, pride and self-esteem of people with disabilities and enhance the options available to them so they may choose and maintain individualized and satisfying lifestyles. Established in 1980, Access Living is a change agent committed to fostering an inclusive society that enables people with disabilities in Chicago to live fully-engaged and self-directed lives. We are at the forefront of the disability rights movement, removing barriers so people with disabilities can live the future they envision.
SC: Grant writing sounds very demanding and maybe even stressful. Is that true?
JG: I think that any job has the potential to be demanding and stressful. Actually, a very small percentage of my time is actually spent grant writing. The majority of my time is divided between identifying and prioritizing activities to engage donors, managing and engaging with a portfolio of donors, and guiding cultivation and solicitation strategies for donors. The rest of my time is divided among developing proposals, reports, budgets and related correspondence, and developing staff capacity to prepare proposals, reports, budgets and related correspondence.
SC: How do you spend your down-time?
JG: I love running, listening to music from my record collection, and reading.
SC: You ran the Detroit marathon earlier this year, was that your first marathon?
JG: It was actually my second marathon. It was an amazing experience. I trained six days a week for 111 days. The race course crossed over the Ambassador Bridge into Canada and back into Detroit through the Detroit–Windsor Tunnel. I crossed over the bridge just in time to see a magnificent sunrise. Many people may not realize this but the bridge is one of the only two Canada-US border crossings where people travel North into the United States.
SC: How long have you been a runner?
JG: I have loved running since I was a kid. My nickname up until I was around 12 was “Juice”. This meant someone who could “turn on the juice” and run really fast. It wasn’t until I moved to Chicago that I began to take distance running seriously. My first race here was the 2011 Shamrock Shuffle followed by the Chicago Marathon. Running has allowed me to appreciate the small things in life that I feel we mostly take for granted. This is why I believe that running has made me a better person.
SC: I want to talk to you more about you’re running in a separate interview. Tell me more about you charity work. Not necessarily related to your day job.
JG: I am actually still looking for an opportunity to get deeply involved. I am passionate about mentoring our young black males and would like to find a really solid and effective mentoring program.
SC: You are quite involved with professional associations as well, right?
JG: I am. I recently completed a year-long fellowship with the Association for Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Chicago Chapter. The fellowship really provided me with an wonderful opportunity to increase my knowledge, expand my network, and learn more about the philanthropic community in Chicago. I also received the AFP Chamberlain Scholarship for attendance to the 2013 AFP International Conference in San Diego. I am also a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity.
SC: Do you have a dream job, if so, what is it?
JG: I don’t really have a dream job. My career goals and aspirations are anchored by my commitment to service above myself through philanthropy.
SC: Do you have a life philosophy you would be willing to share with us?
JG: Sometimes it is better to be kind than to be right.
Thanks for your time, Jason. I look forward to interviewing you about your marathon experience.
Thanks for reading and I hoped you enjoyed learning more about the personal and professional sides of Jason Gilmore. Expect to see a new profile each Friday and be sure to follow this blog so that you will receive the latest updates, interviews and articles.