By Martie Thompson
Lori Weber is originally from Sheboygan, Wis. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse with a degree in communications and a minor in business with an emphasis on constitutional law, she began her career in sales with Johnsonville Sausage (now Johnsonville Foods) a well known business based in Wisconsin. She was responsible for opening new market areas in the eastern and southern U.S., including Florida, which is how she ended up meeting her husband, Jim. They were both in Tampa when he came out of the Coast Guard Academy and they met at a party through mutual friends. They have been married for 31 years and have two daughters, both current students at SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design). The couple moved around a number of times, ultimately ending up back in Florida, in Jacksonville, and Lori said the 28 years she has lived here is the longest she has lived anywhere. Over the years, her career path has weaved in and out of the for-profit and non-profit sectors, and today, Lori is the regional director of Catholic Charities Jacksonville, a position she has held for just the past couple of months.
Q: Why did you initially decide to move to Jacksonville?
A: My husband was retiring from the Coast Guard, where he worked in IT. He has family in the Panhandle and South Florida, and we looked at Jacksonville and it seemed to be a forward-thinking place. John Delaney was the mayor at the time and the Super Bowl was looming; there was just a lot of excitement going on.
Q: How did your career change when you moved?
A: We moved here from Washington, DC, where I worked for the National Breast Cancer Coalition. When we moved to Jacksonville, I continued in my position there and commuted to DC from Jacksonville, while Jim found a job here. Ironically, it took me less time to fly to DC and drive to our office there than it did to take the Metro to work from our previous home in northern Virginia. I commuted for a few years before taking a leadership job with the American Culinary Federation in St. Augustine.
Q: How did you come to work at Catholic Charities?
A: I was actually looking to take an early retirement after my time at the American Culinary Federation. I saw an ad for the Catholic Charities position and I felt called to it. I love it here; it’s restored my faith in the workplace and has been a very positive experience. I’m where I’m supposed to be. I’ve always loved working with non-profits because they offer the opportunity to not only feel good about the work you do, but also give you the opportunity to dabble in a lot of different roles.
Q: What can you tell us about the work Catholic Charities does?
A: We help people get their dignity back via an orchestrated effort that all works together. We provide housing assistance, help with paying utility bills, immigration legal assistance, a food pantry, translation services for those who don’t speak English, and workforce development among other services. I’d like to clear up a big misunderstanding about Catholic Charities: 85 percent of the people we serve are not Catholic. We are here to help anyone who asks for help.
Right now, we are very busy with our Afghan Placement and Assistance program (APS). We are trying to settle approximately 200 Afghan refugees in the coming weeks. We help them with housing, employment, language, and general resettling, all with the assistance of our wonderful volunteers and donors (both monetary and in kind). We feel so privileged to be able to help them in any way possible, as this is aligned with our mission to help our fellow man.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: I love to watch football. I’m a Green Bay Packers fan first, but I’ve become a Jaguars fan as well. I also love to golf when I have the time.
[Editor’s Note: Visit www.ccbjax.org to learn more about Catholic Charities Jacksonville and how you can help.]
Photo courtesy Lori Weber