My name is Jennifer Brouwer. As women we take on so many roles in our lives for many different reasons. The three roles I am most passionate about are being a wife, a mother to two beautiful girls, and the Executive Director of the Janet Phleger Foundation. Being the Executive Director of a non-profit organization was not something I dreamed of as a young girl, but when tragedy struck my family I felt compelled to turn it into something positive.
Originally from Columbus, I attended Bowling Green State University for college and fell in love with the area. I really connected with the community and even though I was hours away from where I grew up, BG felt like home. Shortly after starting college, my mother, Janet Phleger, was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. To say I was shocked and blindsided in an understatement. After already losing my father, I didn’t know how I would manage if I lost my mother to this horrible disease.
It was a difficult time for me and there was little to no assistance for the child of a cancer patient. The medical bills took a devastating hit to our finances and I wasn’t sure what my future would hold. When my mother passed away from her battle when I was just 19 years old, I felt lost, alone, and hopeless. How could I carry on without the guidance and support of my mother – the woman who mattered the most in my life?
There is a phrase that I live by - “Be the person you needed”. This phrase became my mantra as I looked forward on how I could turn my tragedy into triumph. In 2007, six years after my mother passed away, I founded the Janet Phleger Foundation because I wanted to BE the support system I needed when I was in my darkest hour. While there are many non-profit organizations that provide support to cancer patients, I found that little support was being provided to the children of these patients. I wanted to create an organization that provides support for these students and empowers these young people to achieve their dreams, especially in face of hardship. Since 2007, JPF has given $104,000 in college scholarships to 38 families in the Toledo area who have been affected by cancer.
While I am proud of how Janet Phleger Foundation has been able to help 38 families in our area, none of this would have been possible without the support of our local community. I am still in awe of the talent and generosity of those in our area, especially in women. I have found that women are the heartbeat of our community. Women are drawn to give of their time and resources to help better the lives of those around them. Now more than ever we need love to be our main focus and that is what WOT is all about. When you support organizations like WOT you are part of something much bigger than yourself, you are “being the person you needed”, you are “being” the change.
To contact Jen Brouwer, learn more about the Janet Phleger Foundation or to get involved, visit their website here.