International Women’s Day Interview with Andrea Wright

Andrea Wright, Partner, works hard every day not only as an accountant but also as a board member for several local social service organizations aimed at creating a safer, healthier, and more empowered community. Fueled by her passion to challenge the status quo, she is working to help create an inclusive world where everyone has an opportunity to succeed. 

I am Lauren Graves, a Manager in the audit practice, and I recently had the opportunity to interview Andrea about one of her many passion projects, her work with the African American Legacy (AAL), an initiative of the Chicago Community Trust.

Q: What organizations are you involved with outside of Johnson Lambert? 

At the present, I am involved with the AAL (Board Member), the main topic for this discussion, and also The Coppin Community Center (Coppin Center) (Board Member) and Grace Center Ministries (Grace Center) (Board Member & Treasurer). 

The AAL is a philanthropic and educational initiative led by African American civic and community leaders who share the common goal of improving the quality of life among African Americans by engaging African Americans in philanthropy, collectively and individually, and provides support to grassroots and nonprofit organizations working on the ground to solve community problems. 

The Coppin Center works to develop and support members of Chicago’s South Side by transforming their quality of life through food and meal programs, as well as youth and family programs. 

Finally, the Grace Center, which I would say is a mix between the other two programs, has a mission to work collaboratively beyond our boundaries, to strengthen families, faith groups, and organizations for sustained community impact.” 

Q: How did you first get involved with the AAL organization?

Before joining the AAL organization, a client who was a current board member of the AAL was recruiting for new board members and had remembered my previous work with social justice and community engagement organizations and thought I would be a great fit. At the time I was not aware of the AAL or the work that they were doing in the South Side of Chicago. 

I had certainly heard of the Chicago Community Trust and knew of their affinity funds but had no idea what they were doing to promote philanthropy in the African American community through the AAL. I went home and did more research and I found the collective values of the organization and their overall purpose to be in line with my passions so I applied to be a board member. 

I was very excited to be accepted to the board and to be able to join in on their work!” 

Q: What advice would you give someone who wants to be more involved with either a specific organization or is looking to find one that fits with their passions?

Before you can pick an organization it is important to understand and narrow down your passions. Write them down and think about which passions are most important to you. Once you understand your passions and your interests it is much easier to find an organization that aligns with those. 

A single organization may not meet all of your passions, which is fine. People have so many passions that it can be overwhelming to try and find a fit for all of them at once. Curb your enthusiasm, you have many years ahead of you, pick one passion at a time and dedicate a specific amount of time, say one to two years, to that passion project before moving onto the next. 

These organizations will all hopefully be around for many years which allows you time to spread your time amongst many different organizations over your lifetime. This also will help you to keep your passion burning hot for different organizations and different passions as you will have less of a chance of getting burnt out when you put a time limit with each organization. 

When you truly find something that you love, it will no longer seem like work and you will have to constantly tell yourself to say no sometimes, because when your passion is their passion you will want to be involved with everything that they’re doing, but time wise you likely cannot.”

Q: How are you able to incorporate your JL volunteer time with your board work?

The firm is very generous to allow 16 hours a year for personal volunteer work and while my volunteer time certainly exceeds the 16 hours that JL incorporates, I find that JL’s hours make it possible for me to participate in AAL events that occur during the work week. 

Without JL’s allotted volunteer hours and flexible schedule I would not be able to attend the mid-day roundtables, webinars, or presentations, which is time that I value and am thankful that I am able to participate in.”

Q: Are there any upcoming events you’d like to share that your organization is hosting?

“No upcoming events currently on the schedule but we are hard at work for our annual luncheon in June, which is being held virtually again due to the pandemic. I will share those details once the event is announced!”

If we can all take one thing away from what Andrea has said it would be to follow your passions. If we channel our passions toward creating a more inclusive world like Andrea has done, we can empower a collective change. 

From challenge comes change, so let us all choose to challenge and make a change!

Lauren Graves
Lauren Graves | Manager