Julie Meer, executive director of The Community Chest of Port Washington retired from her position on June 30. The Community Chest is a nonprofit organization established to help raise and distribute funds to qualified charities whom are dedicated to improving the Port Washington community for all residents.
Meer has worked in the nonprofit field for 30 years and has a background in accounting. She previously volunteered her time with other nonprofit organizations such as the Parent Resource Center, Teen Center and the Ed. Foundation.
Meer’s initial goal as executive director of the Community Chest was to increase the amount of money the nonprofit was raising each year.
“One of the direct objectives that any person in fundraising has is to increase the amount that they’re raising, which we have done,” Meer said. “I’ve probably doubled what we bring in since that time. But some of the more interesting highlights of the work that I do is connecting with and interfacing with members of the community. We have five major events a year and I get to work with volunteers, participants and donors. It’s really one of the best parts of the job—to be present and part of these community events. People really appreciate the events that we put on and obviously there’s a direct benefit to the Community Chest because we’re raising money.”
The Community Chest’s fundraising events have become iconic traditions in Port Washington, Meer stated.
“We put on these community events and people feel so strongly about them—it means something to them and it turns Port Washington into a community, instead of just a town,” Meer said. “We’ve had people who participate in events who come back and volunteer, and that’s a beautiful thing.”
Money that is raised through fundraising efforts is then given back to the community, which Meer explained is her favorite and the most meaningful part of having worked for the Community Chest for the past 11 years.
“We give out hundreds of thousands of dollars a year,” Meer said. “What did I like the most? We are helping people. I’m seeing with my own eyes, people who have been helped. It’s incredibly moving and meaningful when you get to see that upfront.”
Meer stated that the largest change that has taken place over the last 11 years is the use of social media and how the nonprofit raises funds.
“People are not really accessing social service—giving through the mail anymore, although it is still a major way we raise money,” Meer said. “People really like to give through social media, so we are trying to shift towards that. Our events have also grown. People really enjoy participating in fundraising events. In the last 10 years the Thanksgiving Day Run has grown from 800 to more than 3,000 participants. I also think people really enjoy people doing their own fundraising. The needs haven’t really changed over the last 11 years but the way that we do the fundraising has changed.”
When the pandemic struck, the Community Chest sprang to action to help the Port community during hard times. In March 2020, the Community Chest convened a working group to establish a COVID-19 fund. In addition to raising money, the Chest also created initiatives as they saw a need, everything from making fabric face masks to helping seniors get necessary home deliveries and more.
“We developed an initiative called the Port Pantry Supply Squad, where we noted that our outreach families did not have access to paper and personal care products,” Meer said. “We did some bulk purchasing and we distributed these bags of food every month to our outreach families through the community faith based organizations we’re working with.”
The Community Chest also started a program called “Meat the Need,” where they deliver meat to food pantries in the area; they help to coordinate vaccine appointments in the town, provide people with probono legal advice, give out meal and laundry vouchers and more.
Meer, who has been with the Community Chest for nearly 11 years, stated that leaving the nonprofit was a very hard decision for her.
“This job for me was great,” Meer said. “They say that you make a happy life by helping others and I definitely felt like this was a great place for me. This job for me was all encompassing. I took it very seriously. I was always thinking about how I could do better and what more I could do.”
After retiring, Meer plans to focus on spending more time with her family, traveling and visiting friends.
“While I’m not suggesting that [totally] I’m retiring from work, I don’t think it’s a bad time to take a pause in the middle and spend some time thinking about what I want to do—what makes me happy,” Meer said. “I don’t think I’m too old to keep working, I just don’t know what’s next on my plate.”
Drew Hershowitz, president of Community Chest shared his sentiments with the Port Washington News, following Meer’s retirement.
“Julie’s passion for the Chest’s mission shines bright every day,” Hershowitz, president of Community Chest said. “Her thoughtful leadership, expertise and commitment has made a tremendous impact in our community that will last for many years to come.”
Meer’s final day at the Community Chest is on June 30 and her advice to the community is to continue working hard towards helping those in need.
“I feel like it can be easy to forget about people that you don’t know,” Meer said. “I really want people to know that it takes effort to continue to make this town into the wonderful community that it is. Whether it’s by volunteering or participating, not necessarily just with the Community Chest, but participating with nonprofit organizations in town to make sure that everyone is taken care of. I would just like everyone to remind themselves that there are people in need in our town and let’s not forget about them.”
Meer also expressed gratitude for those that have helped her throughout the past 11 years.
“I want to thank my coworker Shelly Persaud, my board chair Drew Hershkowitz and the entire board, my husband Neil Lazar, who is also a board member and my children “who had a lot less of me while I was working here,” Meer said.
For more information about the Community Chest of Port Washington, visit portchest.org or call 516-767-2121.