Meet Jessie Feller Hahn: Sustainability and Civic Changemaker

"...deep satisfaction and a sense of wholeness only really comes from helping someone else. Otherwise, we very often find ourselves feeling adrift and many times, empty. Giving back roots us in our community and grounds us in each other's daily experience." 

Jessie Feller Hahn has always been passionate about sustainability, civic responsibility, and giving back, much in part to two amazing role models - her parents. The arts were also a large part of her life as she trained in ballet and dance for over 20 years. Jessie combined her urban planning and policy with dance through all of her schooling to her professional life. Over just a five year time span, she founded a modern dance company in SF and NYC, while she worked as an economic development consultant, started a clean energy policy program for a think-tank in NYC, and served as a sustainability policy fellow for the City of Portland. This after receiving a Masters in Environment and Development. Today she serves as the Executive Director of Meeting of the Minds, a nonprofit that brings together urban leaders across sectors to create sustainable, equitable and smart cities. Learn more about Jessie below, and what her one thing is to in making a difference in 2016.

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day, we're highlighting people who do so much for others in the community. Learn more here and tell us, what is the one thing you are doing to create change this year?

What inspires you to give back?

From a very young age, I've been engaged in volunteerism and community service. I think that starting young helped me quickly realize that deep satisfaction and a sense of wholeness only really comes from helping someone else. Otherwise, we very often find ourselves feeling adrift and many times, empty. Giving back roots us in our community and grounds us in each other's daily experience. While it can be viewed as a selfish act, I think there's nothing more rewarding than helping someone else succeed. It lifts us all up. Some of the folks I've given to on HandUp have sent me messages that bring me to tears. That is intensely rewarding.

What are some of your favorite things to do that make a difference in the community? 

I am currently volunteering my time to help a youth center in Richmond (CA) called RYSE Youth Center. I'm working with them to build and design an entrepreneurship, coding and digital career training program. I'm also helping them think through their corporate fundraising strategy. RYSE works with Richmond youth from the ages of 14-21. They are the only organization in Richmond that exists for many of these kids, some of whom have been in and out of the justice system. Many of the traditional institutions have given up on a lot of them. I'm inspired by their commitment, passion and mission to provide a loving and safe environment for the next generation.

Who inspires you the most in the community?

I'm inspired by creative minds who think outside the box to solve complex urban problems. Through my job at Meeting of the Minds, I encounter entrepreneurs and change makers who are applying their creativity to develop and scale new technology solutions, start-ups, design and systems change. I love to see the multi-disciplinary thinker at work who surprises you by developing a solution that no one thought was possible. I'm also inspired by folks who, against all odds, pull themselves up by their bootstraps and push on. Some of the folks I support through HandUp have endured countless and endless pain, rejection and lack of support, yet still maintain their positivity and hope. That is unbelievably inspiring.

What is your one thing you’re committing to in making a difference in 2016?

I'm committed to continuing my donations and support through HandUp and spreading the word to my neighbors through NextDoor.com, which is a fantastic resource to let my neighborhood know how to help out. Through my role at Meeting of the Minds, I am committed to spotlighting social change and urban entrepreneurs who are tackling our biggest problems such as homelessness, climate change, job creation, housing, sustainability, equity and livability.


We are so grateful to have Jessie share her story with us. Tell us, what are you doing in the service of others? Tweet @HandUp and tell us what your one thing is with #myonething and we'll share your story!