with Jeanne Torma, EMERGE Board Member
Tell us about your background and how you connected with EMERGE:
I worked in juvenile probation for 31 years and for Hennepin County for a total of 34 years. I was a probation officer for 15 years, and I loved it. Then, I went on to mentor other Probation Officers so I moved up to be a supervisor and then Division Manager.
Since I live on the Northside, I’d been aware of EMERGE for a long time. A few years back, a family member was connected, and she suggested that I become more involved.
Why did you join the Board of Directors?
I believe this is an organization that serves a population often not served. So, coming from corrections, I was interested. I know that many organizations don’t want to serve this population. And if they do, often they don’t do it in such a way that people will engage. Others often fail to understand the obstacles people face, such as transportation, childcare, fear of failure, and lack of basic social and academic skills.
When I come to EMERGE its always interesting to see the people who are waiting, who are in the computer room, and in classes. They seem to feel at home. It’s clearly an accepting environment. And the location on Emerson and Broadway is so important. The location is huge.
Overall, what I’m most impressed with about EMERGE is this: the services they provide are core services. People must have housing. They need jobs and training. EMERGE meets people where they are and provides those core services which enable them to start taking steps toward a different life.
What is your experience like being on the Board?
I was immediately impressed with the diversity and backgrounds of the other board members and the connections people had. Everyone seemed really interested and was asking questions. I soon learned more about the inner functioning. What I was really most impressed with is EMERGE’s financial accountability. This is something that stood out to me when I learned more about how EMERGE operates and the way most money is spent on programming costs, not administration.
What distinguishes EMERGE from other organizations?
I’m particularly impressed with the North 4 program. Coming from corrections, that’s ‘my population.’ When I see what’s offered to those young men, I know that’s what they need. People feel welcomed, supported, and respected. Staff is really diverse. But, going along with all that, there is accountability. EMERGE is one place that’s meeting the needs of people whose needs are often not met. I’ve also been really impressed by their outcome-based programs.
Why should people support EMERGE?
We, as a community, need to reach out to people and help them get on a path out of poverty. EMERGE gets at the core issues that researchers say need to be addressed before things are going to get better.
I love that EMERGE is always moving forward. Some programs and organizations never change, and if people don’t fit, they just need to go somewhere else. But EMERGE is always changing. Like the career and technology center that’s just opened. It is progressive and forward thinking.