Jessica Judson wasn’t always a Flint resident.

It took a childhood in Metro Detroit, college years at Central Michigan University, and a brief period living in South Korea, but now, Flint is a huge part of Judson’s life.

She regularly bonds with her neighbors within the historic Central Park Neighborhood. She takes her two young children on excursions to the Gloria Coles Flint Public Library. She spends her workday immersed in public health as a project manager for Henry Ford Health’s Community Health, Equity, Wellness, and Diversity Department.

Judson also serves as the Chairperson for the Flint Women and Girls Advisory Committee of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, where she is directly involved with improving the community she has grown to call home.

The Flint Women and Girls Fund (FWGF) strives to empower women and girls by removing barriers in various aspects of their lives, supporting policy change, economic self-sufficiency, expanding choices, and prioritizing organizations led by women.

“Over the years, I researched different health outcomes, became a mom, and my passions started to stack up,” Judson said. “FWGF has sparked my involvement and helped me continue to strengthen my passion for the community.”

Jessica Judson/Comma
Photo: Jessica Hatter Photography

A “non-linear” path to community relations

Judson’s path towards FWGF — and community involvement — was not a typical one. She grew up in Metro Detroit before heading to Central Michigan University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

In 2008, facing the Great Recession, Judson and her now-husband moved to South Korea, where they resided for over three years.

“It was just a coincidental opportunity,” said Judson. “I now have friends around the world, and a unique cultural experience.”

When it came time to move back to the United States in 2013, Judson and her husband found their new home in the Central Park Neighborhood in Flint. She has since fallen in love with the area and the people in it.

“Everyone on my street knows us. We know them. They know my kids,” said Judson. “The people here in Flint are authentic, and I love having that connection.”

Judson and her family explore For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum in Flint. Photo: Explore Flint & Genesee

Judson entered the realm of public health during her time at Diplomat Pharmacy through community relations work and earlier service in AmeriCorps. She gradually learned the many ways she could get involved with the community she cared about.

“I’ve always had a passion for community but didn’t have an avenue of how I wanted to get involved,” said Judson. “When I got back from overseas and got a job at Diplomat Pharmacy, I got a different view of how I could be impactful in my community. I always thought I would have to work at a nonprofit to help, but I saw a different side.”

As a project manager for Henry Ford Health’s Community Health, Equity, Wellness, and Diversity Department, Judson has managed various programs and projects. Her biggest, she says, is diabetes prevention.

“We’ve got tens of thousands of patients that are diagnosed with pre-diabetes,” said Judson. “That work is essential.”

Judson is a project manager for Henry Ford Health's Community Health, Equity, Wellness, and Diversity Department. Photo: Henry Ford Health

Bringing public health to the table

For nine years, Judson’s passion for public health and her community has been directly applied to the FWGF at the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.

Through the advisory committee, Judson helps award grants to causes that affect women and girls in greater Flint. Since the fund’s formation in 1985, over $707,945.33 in gifts have been made, and over $321,000 in grants have been awarded.

Judson says that her experience at Henry Ford has helped her understand a key part of the philanthropic process: small contributions make a big impact.

“With my work at Henry Ford, we really only zero in on small populations at a time to make a large impact,” said Judson. “For Flint Women and Girls, I feel like I’m always drawn to the smaller organizations that are just starting.”

Photo: Jessica Hatter Photography

A committee that looks like the community

The Flint Women and Girls Advisory Committee consists of 15 community members of different backgrounds. Judson says that diversity within the group is key — and something they are proud of.

“The committee knows our community, cares about our community, and looks like our community,” Judson said. “I think we take a lot of pride in ensuring that many demographics are represented. We know that the people giving their dollars can be comfortable in knowing that the people on the committee care about the work being done.”

In their meetings, Judson and the committee distribute funds to organizations and causes like Motherly Intercession, a Flint non-profit that works to empower children to break the cycle of intergenerational incarceration. Judson says that the committee aims to “stretch every dollar” to make the maximum impact.

“I think that there are so many people in the community who are doing good work, good women on the committee that helped us support them, and good people at the Community Foundation of Greater Flint that make sure we hear about these projects,” said Judson. “As a committee, we’re doing the best that we can to make sure that we’re moving things forward that better our community overall, but also the lives of the women and girls that are in there.”

Photo: Jessica Hatter Photography

Work that lasts forever

Judson’s impact and involvement with Flint Women and Girls will last for years to come.

After working with various organizations on the committee, Judson became passionate about maternal and infant health. Ultimately, she became inspired to earn a birth doula certification.

“Seeing why some of the organizations do what they do, I realized that mothers and the birthing people in our community need support and advocacy,” said Judson. “I wanted to try to be a person for them.”

Judson also noticed the significance of the FWGF by spending time with her five-year-old daughter. The pair enjoyed an evening at a Girls Rock concert at the Flint Local — an initiative funded through Flint Women and Girls.

“It was amazing to know we had a small part of helping, and it was full circle to be able to take my daughter there,” said Judson.

Photo: Explore Flint & Genesee

With a passion for her children, public health, and the Flint community, Judson envisions a bright future for Flint women and girls. She will continue to make a difference by supporting the organizations and the fund.

“I will continue to make things happen even when I am not serving on the committee. I will always give to the fund now and find ways to be supportive of the organizations,” said Judson. “I just hope for Flint women and girls, whatever it is, they hope for themselves. And hopefully, they have the support and means and ability to just do that forever,”