Earlier this year, Toyota Financial Services recognized Jen Betts-Williams and Gerard Wheeler for going above and beyond the call of service. These two team members were both named TFS Volunteers of the Year Fiscal Year 2016 for putting in the greatest number of volunteer hours and exemplifying Toyota’s Commitment to Service.
Jen Betts-Williams is a Project Administrator in Sales Planning at TFS. She was formally recognized as the TFS Community Volunteer of the Year at the February 1st Volunteer Recognition event in Plano, Texas. Jen’s astounding efforts resulted in a $5,000 grant to Maricopa Police Department, where Jen volunteered in Arizona as a certified Crisis Victim’s Advocate. As a volunteer, she offered direct assistance and services to victims, witnesses, and survivors on the scene of a crime. She was also responsible for assessing and prioritizing needs, and providing non-medical comfort and aid.
“I am truly grateful that I had an opportunity to volunteer in this capacity because it honestly changed my life,” reflects Jen. “To be the person who helps someone during a crisis, to be “their person” during what could be the most traumatic time they ever go thru – allows you to step outside your comfort zone and see and do things you never thought possible for yourself. It changes you as a person.”
Mary Witkofski, Maricopa Police Department Community Programs Manager, acknowledged the great amount of heart and dedication that Jen has in order to “help individuals and families in the most difficult moments of their lives to take the next step in a healing journey.”
Before volunteering for Maricopa Police Department, Jen volunteered for Big Brothers Big Sisters and Girl Scouts, where she mentored children and helped them become more confident. In addition to her volunteer work, Jen is also busy raising three children, ranging in age from 2 to 13 years.
With the move to Texas, Jen is finding new ways to get involved in her community. She’s already chosen to become a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) in Collin County. CASA volunteer advocates make an extraordinary difference in the lives of the community’s most vulnerable children. CASAs are appointed by District Court Judges to advocate for the safety and well-being of children, typically victims of parental abuse and neglect.
Ultimately, Jen is motivated to make a difference in the life of others. “That’s what’s important to me. Whether it’s for a short time (just through their crisis) or long term – the fact that people can say that I made a difference in their life is so incredibly rewarding,” Jen explained.
While many of her chosen volunteer causes have revolved around youth, she has chosen most her activities because they push her outside of her comfort zone.
When asked which of her volunteer accomplishments or contributions she is most proud of, Jen responded, “I would have to say the grants that Toyota gives to the organizations that I volunteer for is what makes me most proud; I’m an ordinary person with a family and financial obligations to make so I am unable to contribute a lot financially to these organizations that mean a lot to me. To have that support from Toyota is something that makes me proud when I walk into these organizations.”
Also, Gerard Wheeler was awarded the TFS Youth Volunteer of the Year for his work with Los Angeles Harbor College’s Men’s Basketball, which earned the team a $5,000 Toyota community grant. As the team’s Assistant Coach, Gerard logged more than 300 volunteer hours this past year alone.
Since Gerard has been with TFS, he has logged approximately 1,200 volunteer hours! In addition to serving as the Assistant Coach for the Men’s Basketball team at LA Harbor College for four seasons, he has also volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, Boys & Girls Club of Carson, Buford Elementary School, Torrance High School’s Boys’ Basketball, Gardena Convalescent Nursing Home, and a variety of TFS-sponsored events.
When asked why volunteering is so important to him, Gerard explains, “It is a great way to mentor and provide guidance to young people. It’s also a way to stay connected to a game that I’ve enjoyed playing and watching for most of my life.”
While his involvement with basketball-related causes started because of a personal connection and interest, it quickly became more than that.
“I would tell someone who is thinking about volunteering that I have unequivocally received more from volunteering than I’ve given,” he explains. “Some of the players I’ve coached have come from difficult environments, and seeing them accomplish something, whether academically, athletically, or just generally in their lives, is a great feeling. So, it may take time to manifest itself, but a volunteer can and most likely will make a difference in someone’s life.”
Thank you to Jen, Gerard, and all the other TFS team members who were recognized at the 2017 Volunteer Recognition events. Your commitment to local service groups represents the true spirit of Toyota Financial Services “Making Life Easier” program. If you’d like to be eligible to earn a grant for the organization of your choice (within guidelines) in FY17 and/or recognized for your hard work, make sure to keep logging your volunteer hours into iCare (soon to be replaced with Toyota4Good).