Betsy and Mark Westhoff
Like many of Umoja’s leaders, Betsy Westhoff first heard about Umoja from her neighbor, former board member, Gary Feinerman. She came to an open house he hosted, met Lila Leff, Umoja’s founder and was hooked. Seven years later, Betsy is Umoja’s board president.
Mark Westhoff, Betsy’s husband, not surprisingly has joined the Umoja family as well. He originally supported Umoja because of Betsy’s commitment, but after Mark went to his first T3 (Training-to-Transition) he truly understood for himself how important the work is. He explains, “When I went to my first T3 and I sat down with the students I got the chance to really see the spectrum of young people Umoja works with. Some students you know will succeed with just a little extra support, but right away you know that for some it’s going to be a struggle; you see their environment, hear about their lives and thin support systems and a lot of times it’s dismal. Then you understand what Umoja does – filling in for a lot of things that many of us take for granted.”
Both Betsy and Mark have become partners of Umoja because they believe in Umoja’s dedication to developing connections between vulnerable young people and dedicated adults. In Betsy’s words, “Having been on the inside, I know that Umoja spends resources strategically – prioritizing very carefully how contributions are spent. I know the focus is on people. This is why I believe that the staff at Umoja is worth investing in. Their dedication has helped the organization grow.”
The Westhoffs make their philanthropic decisions based on the impact of their donations and the ability of an organization to get the work done. They’ve seen both factors at Umoja. Betsy says, “For Umoja any size donation matters and has an impact on the organization. As board president I know this organization has the combination of heart and business discipline that has helped it succeed and will lead it into the future.”
Thank you Betsy and Mark for your dedication to giving young people opportunities that impact their future in significant ways!