A Willing Heart
Jeff Hirch has been with Communitas for 20 years and in that time he’s done a variety of things that have allowed him to learn a lot about himself. He’s worked in our homes as a support worker and also as a manager. He’s worked in day programs supporting people in community. He’s served as a program director supporting managers in their roles. And as of January this year, Jeff has stepped into the role as Communitas’ new Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO). It’s been a long and fulfilling journey, which is interesting given that he never thought he’d work with Communitas longer than a year.
“When I started back in 1999, I was sure I’d only do this work for 6 months, maybe a year,” he says with a smile. “But the longer I worked here, the more I felt called to stay. There was stuff the God was telling me I needed to learn.”
What became more and more obvious to Jeff is that he has a call on his life to serve people. Over the years, he has discovered that he can think on his feet, that he has problem solving skills and that he really can listen when others are sharing. He’s also surprised himself.
“I never thought of myself as someone who likes working with numbers but I really do,” he says.
Jeff says he has also been taught a great deal by the people we serve. He is amazed at the grace and patience that is extended on a daily basis, even in the most vulnerable situations.
“You could be one of a hundred people coming into someone’s life and there they are, still laughing and loving you,” he says. “It’s humbling.”
He has also learned from the staff people alongside whom he has served. He appreciated the diversity in the staff at Communitas and believes that this is a great strength on a staff team.
“The more diverse a staff team can be, the richer the experience for the people we serve. All it takes is a willing heart and then anything is possible.” – Jeff, CHRO
Jeff is aware that he is filling big shoes. Justina Penner has been with Communitas for the last 20 years and has built a strong human resources department. Jeff is thankful that the two of them have had a few months of overlap so that he can soak up as much knowledge and wisdom from her experience as possible. Justina has every confidence in Jeff’s ability to take on this work.
“Jeff has so many strengths. He really listens to the words and the heart of the person he is having a conversation with,” Justina says, adding that she values his deep faith. “My only advice to Jeff is for him to continue to ‘trust in the Lord with all his heart.’”
For his part, Jeff feels that his journey with Communitas has simply led him to this role. He is grateful for the investment that Communitas has made in him through training and opportunities to explore his gifts in different staff roles. He is aware that Communitas is perhaps a unique place in that it’s an organization that encourages its staff to think, to be creative, and find perspective.
“I owe a lot to Communitas,” he says, referring to the organization’s mission statement. “It really has become ‘a place of belonging, growth and contribution’ for me and I am so thankful.”