Behind the (Non-Profit) Scenes with Jennifer Fischer
Among the movers and shakers around the Eastside community, Jennifer Fischer, Executive Director of Bellevue LifeSpring, has been actively culling localized insights and launching projects around the Puget Sound for several decades.
Her colleague and Associate Director of Bellevue LifeSpring, Rae Macker, said Jennifer truly embodies the moxie and philanthropic resolve of the Eastside region.
“Before the pandemic, I used to brace myself any time we walked around together because she would bump into so many mutual connections,” Rae remembered. “Jennifer is genuinely interested in striking up a conversation with everyone in her community.”
Her involvement in harnessing our local networks to inspire sustained, positive change prompted us to reach out and discover more about her aspirations for the organization and rallying efforts to ignite immediate engagement in the Downtown sector.
BDA: Walk me through your background in the nonprofit realm and how your career in public service has evolved.
JF: I’ve lived in Bellevue for over 27 years and can scarcely imagine living anywhere else. Over the past 15 years, I’ve worked exclusively within the Downtown nexus - first at the Bellevue Downtown Association for nine years and now at Bellevue LifeSpring. Earlier on, I worked for Seattle Center as the Marketing Director and at Seafair as the Sales and Marketing Director. I’ve worked in public service my entire career and I feel honored to have a job where I can support my local community on a daily basis.
BDA: What are a few specific reasons you love working in the Downtown core? How does Bellevue stand apart from other metro areas?
JF: Downtown Bellevue has everything you need, conveniently accessible all in one place! My doctors, hairstylist, dentist, grocery store, favorite destinations, entertainment and hidden gems are all within a few miles. During the time I worked at the BDA, I learned how rare it is to have a grocery store located in a downtown core. Knowing we have three struck me as a pretty remarkable thing and solidified my appreciation for our Downtown neighborhood as a livable, walkable environment.
BDA: Have there been any encouraging moments over the past year that reminded you and your staff to stay positive?
JF: We have been so grateful for the kind spirit and generosity of our community over the past year. When COVID-19 struck, we raised the bar to ensure no child in our community experienced hunger or homelessness as a result of COVID-19 impacts. With the contribution of our partners and investors, we raised $2.5M last year and prevented housing instability for 371 families with 746 children and provided more than 800,000 nutritious meals to underprivileged children at risk of hunger. No families or youth who requested emergency food or rent support last year were turned away. I have been so inspired by our board, circle members, staff and our donors by what we collectively accomplished.
BDA: What kind of growth would you like to see for Bellevue LifeSpring over the year ahead?
JF: Recently, we established a new goal to raise $1.5M by June 30 through signature programs like our Give Where You Live campaign to support Bellevue families impacted by the virus with additional food and financial assistance. Appeals for food donations have doubled and rent requests have tripled due to challenges posed by the pandemic. Families have emptied their reserves and have nowhere else to turn. Fifty percent of the families we support are single parents and the majority work in the hospitality industry and are grappling with how to supervise their children with online learning at home and navigate employment.
Keep an eye out for our Give Where You Live campaign in our media partner publications, including 425 and Points Living magazines. Those interested in supporting our goal to prevent hunger and homelessness among children in Bellevue, please contact me via email or donate to Bellevue LifeSpring. Our initiative has supplied $25 per week in Safeway food vouchers to 3,175 students and provided rent support to struggling families to reduce stress and ensure children have a secure home to call a haven.
BDA: What has been your greatest challenge to face as an organization?
JF: One of our biggest challenges continues to be raising awareness. People often hear the misconception that poverty doesn’t exist in Bellevue, but the reality is that 20% of students in the Bellevue School District face food insecurity every day. More than 350 students are currently experiencing homelessness. We know these numbers are even higher now, but the data has been difficult to track since classes have gone remote.
This blog is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.
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