Jean Kelly is the executive director of The Interfaith Nutrition Network (INN). She was among the small group of concerned Long Islanders who established The INN’s first soup kitchen in 1983.
She was a member of The INN’s Board of Directors for the first ten years, serving as president of The Board for five years.
Prior to joining The INN, Jean worked in the corporate world where she was vice president of a Long Island–based advertising agency and then Marketing Services Manager for JBL, the world’s largest manufacturer of high-fidelity loudspeakers.
At The INN, Jean has been instrumental in guiding its growth from one soup kitchen to a network of 21 soup kitchens across Long Island, twelve of whom are now operating independently of The INN and following its model.
She also oversaw the creation of more than a dozen emergency shelters over the many years to accommodate single men, families, refugees and people with HIV-AIDS. Finally, she was also instrumental in the formation of 21 units of long-term, low-income housing with supportive services.
The INN’s current network of Long Island’s largest soup kitchen and two emergency shelters feed over 224,000 people each year and shelter approximately 100 children, women and men each night.
Jean has been previously honored and recognized by the League of Women Voters, the Mental Health Association, National Association of Women Business Owners, Molloy College, St. John’s University, and the New York State Senate.
Jean also received The Martin Luther King, Jr. Award, the Kairos Award, the Public Citizen of the Year award from the National Association of Social Workers-NYS Nassau County Division and is in the Long Island Business News Hall of Fame, as one of the Top 50 Women on Long Island.
Jean is married to Rob Kammerer, an original INN volunteer and lives in Huntington, NY.
How do you define success?
Success is finding both your purpose here on earth and the avenue/vehicle you can use to fulfill whatever service you were sent to accomplish.
What is the best advice you have received that has made an impact on your business?
Best advice I have received early in my career was “In order to get anything done, you need to realize it may be your place to make it happen”
What drives you to succeed?
What drives me to be successful is the realization each day that each day at The INN, all of us have been given the privilege to be of service to the Masters of the Universe, aka the guests of The INN.
While struggling to attain life’s basic necessities, the guests understand what is important and how critical their role of suffering is to awaken their fellow traveler’s empathy and generosity towards them. We all know that it is simply a matter of circumstances and anyone’s position in life could easily be reversed.
What are the most significant challenges you have as a woman in your industry?
The most significant challenges I face does not involve being a woman, but more involves the realization that we all need to fight each day to overcome the general population’s attitude towards many in need, which is that they somehow are responsible for their life circumstances, and they are making a choice to live in profound poverty.
No one makes a choice to suffer or go without, but we are all called upon to make a choice as to how do we respond when asked for help from another human being in need.