Foundation hires its first executive director
CHARLOTTE – The Go Jen Go Foundation has taken a huge leap forward by hiring its first executive director.
After years of volunteering with the foundation, Susan Sears hopes to provide more families with the financial assistance needed to focus on recovering from breast cancer.
Sears lost her mother-in-law to breast cancer in 2004. She became involved with Komen Charlotte after moving to the city. She met Jen Pagani while serving as chairwoman for the 2012 Race for the Cure.
Jen Pagani, who died in 2014, put the Jen in Go Jen Go.
“I instantly connected with her and her organization’s mission and let everyone know that I wanted to be a part of it,” Sears said. “I am thrilled to continue to build the Go Jen Go Foundation into an amazing resource for survivors and to partner with like-minded organizations in our community.”
The Go Jen Go Foundation provides financial aid to people during diagnosis, treatment and recovery of breast cancer.
The foundation started when Jen was in the chemotherapy. She learned from talking to people Tuesdays in the infusion room that many of the people there were struggling to pay for groceries.
Meanwhile, the Paganis received so much help from their support system, they began asking friends to stop. Jen eventually handed out Harris Teeter and Trader Joe’s gift cards for families in the infusion room. “The reaction that she got from those people who really had such a need for help like that was overwhelming,” Joe Pagani said. “It sparked something in us.”
The Paganis set out to become a conduit for people that needed help and people that wanted to help. Go Jen Go started out by helping people pay for gas and groceries through gift cards, but it’s evolved to cover other basic needs like utilities.
“We stuck to that same mission in helping people in small ways and take the attention off those little finances and focus on their fight,” he said.
Board member Jennifer Branham said hiring an executive director comes at a time when the foundation hit the $100,000 mark for grants. They gave $103,000 in grants to 138 families last year.
“It shows how critical their needs are in terms of gas, groceries and rent, to get to the next month,” Branham said.
The foundation is organizing its fifth annual Run Jen Run 5K Race Festival at 8 a.m. March 11 at Symphony Park. The family-friendly event includes bounce houses and food trucks.
Sears has helped plan the signature event since 2013.
“It feels like we have reached a new level of being able to help many more families because of the success that we’ve had as a wholly volunteer organization,” Joe Pagani said. “To get to a point where we needed somebody on staff to help us continue this growth is a big step for us.”
Want to learn more?
Visit www.gojengo.org to learn more about the foundation. Register for the fifth annual Run Jen Run 5K Race Festival (8 a.m. March 11 at Symphony Park) at https://runjenrun.racesonline.com.