Eileen Higgins: Beyond the Grant Member Spotlight

Meet Impact 100 Jersey Coast Member Eileen Higgins

By Janet Mazur Cavano

For the last three years, you’ve served as Executive Director of the Girls Scouts of the Jersey Shore. Before that, you were the Executive Director of the Monmouth County Workforce Development Board.

Surely, you learned of Impact 100 Jersey Coast through your community involvement?
Actually, no, I did not! Claire Knopf (an inaugural member) invited me to an Impact event and how do you say no to her? I’ve been a member since 2017.

What inspires you about the organization?
I’ve been involved in the non-profit world, and we’re always scrambling to get little gifts. But to receive a “gift” or grant as large as what Impact gives can make a significant difference! I also like that Impact works at giving a voice to some organizations we’d never ordinarily hear about.
There are so many organizations out there with great missions and to even apply for a grant, they have to step up. Even if they’re not selected to be one of the finalists, a huge number of influential women at Impact have been exposed to them. For the organizations, it’s about much more than the grant. It’s an awesome opportunity and non-profits should not lose sight of that.

Do you have a favorite Impact success story or memory?
After the annual meeting a few years ago, I went up to a finalist that did not win a grant, The American Littoral Society, and told them, “You need to stay with this because you have a great story to tell – you can’t give up!” It was nice because Girl Scouts later connected with them.

Speaking of Girl Scouts, please tell us more about this venerable 108-year-old institution and your role on the local level.
We serve 10,000 girls in Monmouth and Ocean counties and have 4,000 adult volunteers – that’s the cookie moms, the dads, the troop leaders and more. We actually have a troop that’s run by an engineering group who’re looking to get girls interested in engineering and STEM. People think you have to be a leader to be involved and that is not the case. You can come in and do a one-time event. We are open to anything and everything. It’s a great opportunity for our girls to sample so many new things – we’re much more than the cookies!

And right now (February) is the most important time of year for you — Girl Scout Cookie season, no?
That’s right! It’s important to note that the cookie sales are a program, not a fund-raiser. It teaches girls entrepreneurial skills and goal-setting. It is the largest girl-led program of its kind. Our girls have run a robotics team, traveled to Peru and tried a lot of new things, all funded by the cookies. Also, last year, through the pandemic, the girls learned how to be resilient and how to pivot.

So, how are YOU are you keeping sane during the pandemic and lockdown?
My family has been awesome! My husband has worked out of the house for years, I work out of the house more than not. We go for walks, and I read. I try not to watch TV because I’m so tired of hearing the vitriol, I stay off social media too. We play golf, but not often; we also turned our basement into a gym. Like everyone else, I’m just treading water.

You’re a native of Monmouth County?
Since the age of 6, I grew up in Brielle. I went to St. Rose High School (in Belmar) and then the University of Richmond. My husband and I moved to Fair Haven when our children were small. I sat on the Rumson/Fair Haven school board for seven years

How about a fun fact about you? Something we don’t know
I used to water ski competitively. My mother didn’t like salt water, so we spent our summers on a lake in Connecticut where there was nothing to do but swim and water ski!

The most recent book you’ve read?
“The 10,000 doors of January,” by Alix E. Harrow. It’s a very unusual story and it took me a while to get into it, yet something about it is so interesting. It’s very different than what I normally read.

Bottom line. What would you tell a woman considering joining Impact?
I would tell them not to be scared by the price tag. The $1,100 donation can be intimidating for some women, yet the rewards are there. It’s definitely a group to get involved with – you’ll spend your time with some of the most creative, insightful women who’ll lift you up!

Eileen lives in Fair Haven with her husband Kiernan and their dog. They have two grown children.

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