“I always had some aspiration to give back to my community,” explained Georgeann Gigi, known by most of her coworkers as Gigi. In her role as operations associate for HFH Summer Camps, Gigi is doing just that– helping kids around her hometown of New York City have access to a real summer camp experience.
Gigi has a personal connection to the homeless young people she serves. Born and raised in East Harlem, she and her mother experienced homelessness. “It was, I guess, a blessing in disguise,” Gigi explained, “my mom was able to gain her independence for the first time.”
The pair was able to make it out of the system, moving into an apartment that Gigi’s mother lives in to this day. Her mother went on to get her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in education-related fields.
This experience shaped Gigi, encouraging her to work in homeless services. She says, “I knew in some way that I wanted to work within the shelter system, just coming from our experience and having, you know, certain people who guided my mom to get out of the system pretty fast—which can be rare.”
But the road to a job in homeless services was not straightforward. Gigi attended Hunter College, majoring in Political Science and working retail at the same time as she was trying to get her degree. “I wanted to be able to provide for myself,” she explains.
With such a packed schedule during school, she fell into retail full-time after graduation. Then, serendipitously, she met a coworker who had worked in homeless services with Volunteers of America. The coworker invited Gigi to interview for a position at a shelter for single adults. Gigi went for the interview and was hired as a case manager at the facility.
Gigi had never worked as a case manager before, but she adapted quickly. “You can be trained on everything and anything, but I think it’s the experience and being there that you get the knowledge that you need,” she argues.
Her personal skills also helped. “I’m someone who’s super organized and structured myself,” says Gigi, “so case manager was…a good fit for me.”
She describes her current job at HFH as very different from her time as a case manager. Gigi works exclusively with HFH camps, a program that helps provide an authentic summer camp experience to children experiencing homelessness. In her role as operations associate for Camps, she is responsible for managing the recruitment of campers and leading the recruitment team. She manages partnerships with multiple shelter sites to keep them up to date about the camp season, and she works with members of the teen leader program.
With all this on her plate, Gigi keeps busy. But she loves the job. “My favorite thing is definitely feeling like I’m contributing to making an impact in these kids’ lives,” she explains, “While it may seem small—going to a two-week summer camp—parents who keep coming back, and there’s a reason why they’re coming back. Their kids have an incredible experience, and it’s an opportunity for the child to just learn.”
“At the end of the day, I can see what I’m doing to contribute to their lives,” she says.