Money & Careers

Northern California Women Making a Difference

dsc01606Alexis Tjoa at the desk of the Doris Foley Historical Library.

Alexis Tjoa, president of the Friends of Nevada County Libraries, says: “My volunteer activities give me a sense of purpose, help me develop new skills and allow me to feel a part of my community. I get to meet people with similar interests and generally have a lot of fun.”

Tjoa, who for years worked in Los Angeles as a marketing manager for a large accounting firm, moved to Northern California and discovered she had an interest in genealogy.  Soon she found herself regularly visiting the Doris Foley Library for Historical Research, which has an account visitors may use. Over time she came to know the staff and eventually asked if they had any volunteer openings. That was six years ago. She is now the archivist for the library, work she takes seriously.

Joyce Wycoff, artist and writer, weighs in on what meaningful work means to her. “Most of my time,” she says, “is devoted to creative expression in the forms of writing and art. Having passed the point of needing to combine ‘meaningful work’ with a steady income, I don’t think much about the term ‘work’ any longer.  There are two questions that pull me forward into all my projects … ‘who am I?’ and ‘what can I do to serve others?’” Wycoff believes that her job, her activism is to express her values and beliefs “in the power of gratitude, optimism, generosity and forgiveness through words and images rather than through one-on-one action.” Carefully, she chooses projects that work to that end.

While these women give back to their communities in different ways, all of them share a desire to make the world a better place. Meaningful work often means work a woman creates for herself, work that allows her to follow her passions. Occasionally, the work finds the woman, as was the case of the college instructor who started out bagging groceries for her local food bank and ended up writing grants for the non-profit, something she’d not done before, ultimately bringing in thousands of dollars for the organization.

However we define it, work that takes us places beyond ourselves, that fills us with a sense of completeness, is work that is deeply fulfilling. None of the women interviewed seeks kudos or admiration for the time spent in endeavors that bring them pleasure; if financial rewards are not always abundant, most certainly there are rewards of another sort: the smile of a child who has mastered a page of reading, the thank you of a homeless person who has found a safe haven.  As Joyce Wycoff says, “These are truly small things in a world where our needs are so great.”  Most certainly it’s a start.

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  • Molly Fisk September 24, 2016 at 11:18 pm

    Thanks for this, Judie. Insightful and got me thinking…