One-on-One with Elixir Committee Co-Chair Jessica Slack
It’s not yet officially springtime, but we are already deep into the planning for Mazzoni Center’s annual fundraiser and celebration, Elixir: the Cure for the Common Gala, which will take place on Friday, May 20 at Jefferson University’s Lupert Plaza. Last year this event was attended by nearly 400 people and raised more than $120,000 dollars to support Mazzoni’s continuum of health and wellness services for the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities in the Philadelphia region.
Planning for an event of this scale requires a great deal of time, meticulous attention to detail, and exceptional teamwork. Lucky for us, this year’s Elixir Planning Committee features all of that and more.
We sat down with 2016 Elixir Co-Chair Jessica Slack to learn more about her role and why she’s excited to return for a second year of leading the logistics for the big event, alongside fellow Elixir Committee Co-Chair Bill Paszek.
Slack explains that her first brush with Mazzoni came a few years ago, when her partner Domenic Gallelli and their good friend, former Board member and longtime support Michael Wolf, introduced her to Mazzoni CEO Nurit Shein.
“I was looking for ways that I could dedicate my time, energy and resources to supporting Mazzoni,” she says, “and when Nurit raised the idea of me serving as Elixir Co-Chair with Tom Runkle I was optimistic that my prior experience coordinating large scale fundraising events for other local non-profits would enable me to effectively serve in this significant role.”
She describes co-chairing last year’s event as “one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had for many reasons. I’m so incredibly honored to be supporting an organization that provides services that are so needed and significant to so many people.”
Her previous experience serving on the Board of the Philadelphia Chapter of CREW-Commercial Real Estate Women, and as Board member and Co-Chair of the Programs committee for the Healthcare Leadership Network of Delaware Valley gave Slack valuable experience in planning and managing large-scale events.
“I was grateful to work alongside Tom, who is a dedicated supporter of Mazzoni Center,” she says of her 2015 experience. “Together we assembled a strong committee to support us in executing last year’s event, which turned out to be the most successful Elixir to date, in terms of fundraising. I was incredibly proud to be part of planning and creating that.”
She believes last year’s unique venue – Philadelphia’s historic Waterworks -- was a key factor to this success. “While the outdoor venue created a lot more for us to think about and plan for, ultimately it was a big draw and the feedback from guests was overwhelmingly positive,” she says.
For that reason, the committee is excited to have secured another outdoor venue for this year’s gala - even though she acknowledges the extra work involved, and the need “to always have a contingency plan in place!”
When she’s not keeping our biweekly planning meetings on track, Slack serves as Associate VP of Strategic Development for P. Agnes, a local contractor serving private institutions and commercial clients throughout the tristate area. Her free time includes plenty of fitness-related pursuits. “Kickboxing, group exercise classes, and spinning are some of my favorites,” she says, “but I like physical activity of all kinds.”
In terms of what she has learned from her event-planning experiences, she says: “The key to coordinating a large-scale fundraiser is having the right team of dedicated people in place. You have so many different aspects that need to be managed efficiently, from running a silent auction to coordinating volunteers to managing entertainment.”
“You need to be able to confidently delegate to your team, and count on those folks to follow through and execute all the various steps that need to be taken leading up to the main event,” Slack explains.
Dedicating several hours each month, in addition to biweekly meetings, for approximately nine months a year is a serious commitment, but as she says: “the return on investment is tremendous.”
“I’m grateful to be working alongside such brilliant, passionate genuine people,” says Slack, “and I’m incredibly honored to be supporting such a remarkable organization again.”
Click here for tickets and more info. about Elixir 2016.