Shalom Austin Staff and Volunteer Spotlight

Shalom Austin Staff and Volunteer Spotlight

Heather Brands
Shalom Austin JCC Aquatics Manager

What is your role and what do you do at Shalom Austin?
As the Aquatics Manager, I train our lifeguards, swim instructors, and swim coaches. I also have the opportunity to work with J members of all ages in a wide range of programs including Swim School at the J, Piranhas Swim Team, Red Cross certification, and our adult swim programs such as Masters Swim.

What is your background and what brought you to Shalom Austin?
I grew up in the McKinney, TX (North Dallas) where I first became a lifeguard for the City of McKinney when I was 16 years old. As I went through college, working in Aquatics was always a great place to have fun and flexible hours. Additionally, I was always given more challenges and opportunities to grow and learn more, which led me to Austin. While working for the City of Austin, Shalom Austin had an opportunity that I could not pass up. The opportunity to combine my work with swim programs, lifeguards, and pool operations into one position was something that l had been looking to find.

What do you feel has been your most rewarding experience so far?
The most rewarding experience has been being able to hire and train all new staff members from our swim instructors, lifeguards, coaches, and bringing on our Assistant Manager, Brittany Moody. Brittany and I have together worked to bring on a cohesive staff that is not only positive and outgoing, but knows that safety is key to a great pool experience.

What is your favorite part about working at the Shalom Austin JCC?
Knowing that we are making an impact on our JCC community. We see so many people come to our facility with goals for their children and themselves. It’s the experience of watching children make those first few bubbles, to watching them learn to swim, and then pass the swim test.

Describe any exciting programs or projects in the works.
In 2018, we are making a quite a few changes to our swim programs. We are working on setting up a stroke clinic for our youth and adults on Sunday afternoons. We are also making some schedule changes to our Masters Swim based on recent survey results. Additionally, we are going to be offering more time for our private swim lessons during our peak seasons. Now, child and adult private swim lessons will be available after school or camp on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 3-8 p.m. This is a big shift in our current swim schedule.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about getting involved with Shalom Austin?
We are a community that offers so much to our members. This a great place for the kids, parents, and grandparents to find both physical and social activities. Also, come check out our pool! We offer year-round swim lessons for all ages (it’s never too late to learn), youth swim team, Masters Swim program, and Water Aerobics.

Davie Lou Solka
Shalom Austin Volunteer

What is your role at Shalom Austin?
I participate in various activities and help anywhere and in any way possible. I joined the Book Fair (now JBookFest) Committee as soon as I could when we moved to Austin from Corpus Christi almost ten years ago and have worked in almost every area of JBookFest since then. I play Mah Jong on Monday with a great group of people, and I participate in all of the Intergenerational programs through the Senior Department with the third, fourth and fifth grades at the AJA (Austin Jewish Academy). I taught in the JCC preschool in Corpus Christi, so these programs are fun and I like getting to know this age boys and girls. They help keep me “in the know!”

What made you decide to become a Shalom Austin volunteer?
I was very involved in all aspects of the Corpus Christi JCC and it was obvious to me to continue that JCC relationship in Austin.

Why is volunteering important to you?
I feel very strongly that we all need to give back to our communities in some way. We are all affected by the work done by non-profits and it is up to each of us to do our share and help carry the weight. Tikkun Olam was instilled in me by my parents, and as we have seen by recent events, anything can happen very quickly to change our lives.

What is your background?
As I said, Tikkun Olam was instilled in me by my parents, and I have always “helped out” in some way. I saw my parents giving back to their community and they encouraged and supported whatever I wanted to do. I was involved in almost all aspects of the Jewish community in Corpus Christi for over forty years, as well as many school health, and cultural organizations. I also owned several different types of businesses.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about getting involved with Shalom Austin?
There’s something for everyone at Shalom Austin and it is up to you to find your niche. You will enrich your life – as well as others – in many ways. Becoming involved is very rewarding and you will become a better, happier person. ■

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