Janine Francolini is the founder and Board Chair of The Flawless Foundation. With a background in education and a passion for children and service Janine turned a move to Portland, Oregon and a volunteer job into a rapidly growing non profit organization dedicated to taking a stand for children and adolescents with special needs.
I had the opportunity to chat with Janine and find out more about her tale of reinvention. Here’s what she had to say.
Sometimes we choose to reinvent and sometimes it chooses us. What was the defining event that made you take the leap?
I think its both.
I have always been passionate about my work in education. But I found increasingly when I was still living back East that what I was doing was not the reason I entered the profession. We moved to Portland on a whim. So here I was in a new city. I took a job volunteering with children with severe behavioral issues. I was shocked at the lack of resources. I had one of those moments when it just hit me that I had to do something to change that.
Plus, I think I have always been drawn to these types of children from my own childhood. I was the behavior problem. I was fortunate that I turned out OK but that did not have to happen that way. And I wanted to do something so that others could be as fortunate.
Tell me about The Flawless Foundation.
Our vision is to see the perfection in every child. We’re a non profit organization dedicated to more humane, compassionate care for children and adolescents living with mental health and neurodevelopmental challenges. We do that through a variety of different programs in the arts, gardening, yoga, meditation and Collaborative Problem Solving.
We also do a lot of training for parents and educators and are very fortunate to be working with Dr. Stuart Ablon who is the Director of Think:Kids in the Department of Psychiatry at Mass General Hospital. Our next big event with Dr. Ablon is October 19-20 in New York.
How has or hasn’t your work and education experience prepared you?
I have fifteen years of experience as a teacher, administrator and consultant in private schools in New York City. It has all proved invaluable. The classroom time is obvious, but also my last position in Education was as Director of Admissions taught me so much about sales and marketing which is so helpful now in raising the awareness and the funds we need to grow The Flawless Foundation.
What has been the biggest surprise concerning your reinvention?
It was two years in May and I am still astounded by how easy it has been. It is 24/7 work and involvement but it has been effortless in coming together
What has been the biggest obstacle?
Like any working mom, managing work and family life is always a challenge
What has come the easiest?
I really stand by that. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t. More has come to me and the organization than I ever dreamed. It holds true that if you are truly following your passion everything you need and then some shows up.
Do you have any regrets?
If I had any idea how big this would get and how quickly, I would have had more of a plan going in. I would have secured funding in advance and had more of an infrastructure set up and ready. At times I think I started this like a bake sale.
What do you love most?
Those moments when I see the kids eyes light up, when I hear them call out to me, Miss Janine.
I love working in the garden with the kids. And my volunteers are the best!
What do you miss most?
Not having to pay for health insurance.
What are you most proud of?
The number of children’s lives and adult’s we’ve changed. In just two years we have touched thousands.
We even won an award! The 2009-2010 Excellence in Special Education Award from the National Association of Special Education Teachers’ for making a commitment to educate and/or advocate for children with disabilities and their families.
What advice would you give others contemplating shaking up their lives?
Just do it. Jump in. Don’t hesitate. Everything you need will be there.
Please note: The Flawless Foundation will be holding their Annual Perfection Party on April 9, 2011. For tickets to the Panel Discussion, Champagne Reception and/or Dinner please visit http://www.flawlessfoundation.org/2011/02/join-us-for-the-2011-perfection-party-in-nyc/
For more information on The Flawless Foundation or to donate please visit www.flawlessfoundation.org
You can follow Janine and the wonderful work this group is doing on Facebook or Twitter@flawlessgrats.