A tribute to Jaimi Washburn, BIIN Director Extraordinaire
A tribute to Jaimi Washburn, BIIN Director Extraordinaire
Non-profit organizations rely on the involvement, support and leadership of many people. But when someone who has served the organization in a key role for many years steps down, it’s vital to acknowledge the impact that this person has had.
Jaimi Washburn served BIIN for over four and a half years, from February 2018 when she was hired as Program Manager, and then from September 2020 through October 2022 as Director. Jaimi was the first steady staff member in BIIN’s history, and she has recruited and trained many others who have served in staff and intern roles. Anyone who has been involved with BIIN at any time since 2018 likely knows Jaimi: her friendly demeanor, in English or Spanish, and the energy she brings to every task, have made her a superb ambassador and administrator for the organization. Although she’d be the first to downplay her own role or to thank others for their contributions, Jaimi has had a remarkable impact on BIIN’s operations, systems, procedures, staffing, funding, and presence in the community.
Wanting to honor her leadership and legacy, a number of people associated with BIIN jumped at the opportunity to share a few words about who Jaimi is, what she brought to BIIN and accomplished during her tenure with the organization. Their comments have been edited lightly for clarity and context.
Who is Jaimi Washburn?
Cecelia Hawkins, BIIN founder and former board chair:
I was serving as board chair when we hired Jaimi in 2018. At the time, I couldn’t believe our good fortune! We needed someone with non-profit management experience, Spanish language and cultural literacy, and the patience to work with an all-volunteer organization with a very modest budget. Jaimi fit the bill!
I learned very quickly in working with her that she is thoughtful, resourceful and, above all, persistent! No technological or software glitch held her back for long! Jaimi is down-to-earth, flexible, cooperative, engaged, seemingly tireless – with an infectious laugh and a talent for creating a fabulous charcuterie board!
Tony Caraballo, BIIN founding member, IRA volunteer and board member:
From the time when Jaimi came to BIIN, it felt like we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. She became the compass of our ship. She guided us on the right path to making BIIN what we are today. Her commitment to BIIN and positive attitude are always present. Seeing her connecting with people while speaking Spanish (at times blushing) shows her kind heart and disposition. Her willingness to serve is outstanding.
Janet Morford, Communications and Development Coordinator:
Jaimi is a deeply generous person. She sees the best in everyone and knows how to honor whatever anyone has to offer, in any situation. With her ever-present smile and genuine warmth, she makes everyone feel welcome and appreciated. Jaimi has many skills, but what has long stood out for me, first as a volunteer and later as her colleague, is her capacity for recognizing and affirming other people’s gifts. I have seen how her appreciation for other people’s unique abilities has helped many (myself included) grow and thrive through our involvement with BIIN.
Mollie Fitzpatrick, former volunteer and board member:
I reached out to BIIN by email when I first moved to College Station, where I knew absolutely no one. Jaimi quickly found a way to plug me into the mission of BIIN and join arms with marketing efforts. I am so grateful for the way Jaimi quickly identified my strengths, encouraging and teaching me to be a better volunteer and leader. The BIIN team, and namely Jaimi, became a familiar group of people that allowed BCS to feel more like home.
Linda Ford, former program leader and volunteer:
I always loved visiting with Jaimi. Any and every time I needed help with or had questions about “English for Parents” at Neal Elementary School she was always willing to talk to me. When I would drop by the office, we laughed as much as we talked. I enjoyed helping with the ESL classes and the citizenship classes, as part of my field work for seminary. I also attended a party when volunteers were recognized. She oversaw the gathering in a very warm and friendly, easy going manner. Jaimi can make everyone feel comfortable and appreciated.
Nancy Plankey-Videla, BIIN founder, volunteer and current board chair:
How can I talk about Jaimi without it sounding like a love letter? Jaimi is compassionate, energetic, organized, visionary, and kind. Her love for others, expressed by her work and helpfulness, shines brightly.
What did Jaimi bring to BIIN?
Angelita Garcia-Alonzo, BIIN founder, former board member and community partner:
Jaimi brought enthusiasm and energy to BIIN and worked hard to enhance and develop programs at BIIN, always with a “Can Do” attitude and an open mind! Her enthusiasm and ability to work with the volunteers and interns made people want to be part of BIIN. Her knowledge and her organizational skills are exceptional. Through her talents and skills as program manager and then director, she gave BIIN direction to best serve the immigrant communities.
Adriana Stowe, former intern, current BIIN website and database manager:
Jaimi has brought passion into the organization, so much so that it spreads to everyone else. This was more than a job to her, and she put her all into everything she did. Her energy and excitement inspires us all to keep a positive attitude through each task. For example, I remember once when we had to put together all the pages for the citizenship books and it was kind of a mess… But she kept such a funny and positive attitude, we got it done without a problem! She makes everything fun, so nothing feels stressful, even when it otherwise would be.
Cate Stackhouse, former BIIN intern:
Jaimi has brought a lot of enthusiasm and excitement to BIIN. Her enthusiasm for ideas and projects motivates those that work for her and with her to do the best job that they can. As a former Peace Corps volunteer, Jaimi also brought problem-solving skills, such as creativity and flexibility, to BIIN.
Working with Jaimi on the Fall 2021 Light of Liberty fundraising breakfast was one place where I saw all of these skills in action. Working through the issues that Covid brought, such as limited capacity and social distancing, Jaimi thought of different venues that could accommodate BIIN’s needs and eventually got the idea of holding the event at a covered shelter in one of the local parks.
Viviana Castillo, English program coordinator:
I met Jaimi in the fall of 2022, when I became an AmeriCorps member at BIIN. As a result, I haven’t spent much time with her, but I always appreciated Jaimi’s enthusiasm and positive attitude towards everything. When it came to training me and working around my school schedule, she was always very understanding and patient. When we would actually figure something out together, it was always a happy moment.
Tania Barrios, IRA coordinator:
Despite only working alongside Jaimi for a short period of time, I appreciate the enthusiasm and motivation she brought to the office every single day. She was never desganada (or tired) about her work, and that’s the kind of energy you need at a nonprofit! She is also the kind of leader that supports you and gives you leeway to pursue your own projects and ideas, which in my opinion, is one of the ways an organization can truly thrive. I’ve worked and volunteered with nonprofits in the B/CS area for a few years now and have experienced all sorts of leadership styles. Jaimi’s style as a leader is one of those that you actively look for.
When I began my role as the IRA Coordinator, I saw various ways in which I felt I could help develop the IRA program. When I brought up my ideas to Jaimi, she immediately hopped on board and supported me from the beginning to make it happen! The leadership she brought to BIIN and its volunteers, staff, interns, etc., has allowed the organization to flourish and serve hundreds of members of the community.
It’s very rare you meet someone that has a contagious energy to everything they do. Jaimi has that energy. After working with semester after semester of interns on the marketing team, one thing remained the same: every single one was bummed their internship with BIIN was ending because of the encouragement and excitement Jaimi would bring to the work they were doing as well as their personal development. We even had an intern stay for over a year because of how much she was learning and enjoying Jaimi’s contagious energy for the cause of BIIN.
Beyond that, Jaimi models a humility to her leadership that I admire so much. No matter how many hours she put in to accomplish something, she will always raise up those who pitched in before herself. Her encouragement and commitment to shining the light on everyone for their time serving BIIN (even if it was small) is both refreshing and refining.
What has Jaimi’s enduring impact been?
Jaimi’s most innovative and transformational contribution (besides all the volunteer management, policy and procedural systems she developed) was to establish a rotating cadre of college student volunteers that served as interns and increased exponentially the work BIIN was able to accomplish – not to mention the value added for the students.
During the pandemic, Santa Teresa Parish held vaccine clinics and we could always count on Jaimi to help us identify and find volunteers to help at the clinics. She is very helpful in whatever project or task is at hand. Jaimi has a servant’s heart and always works to improve the lives of those who live in the shadows.
Clotilde Pichon, BIIN founder, IRA volunteer and former board member:
Jaimi has made BIIN more professional as a non-profit: getting and training interns, developing marketing, getting grants as well as helping with all sorts of fundraising, bringing in tools to better serve BIIN’s needs, as well as getting AmeriCorps members. She has been fundamental in putting in place Volgistics (a system for volunteer management) and then the Salesforce database.
Rich Woodward, BIIN volunteer and former treasurer:
I think the thing that I love most about Jaimi is her love of spreadsheets — just kidding.
BIIN thrived under Jaimi’s leadership because of her passion for the immigrant community, the volunteers — especially the student interns — and her heartfelt commitment to BIIN. She showed leadership, inspiration, and commitment. We were truly blessed to have her work for us.
Carol Goldsmith, former board member and volunteer:
I had been teaching English language citizenship classes for a handful of years and serving on the Board for a short time when Jaimi joined BIIN as our “everything and everyone” manager. Jaimi applied her experience, knowledge and skills to organizing and standardizing the various program, volunteer, intern, outreach, and communication activities that propel BIIN toward fulfilling its mission. Her leadership, enthusiasm, caring and compassion made our organization and teamwork stronger. Jaimi’s enthusiasm and commitment to BIIN and the immigrant community we served inspired me.
We also worked together on a risk management committee. We had a lot to figure out and document. BIIN had many of the required procedures in place, but there were new ones to figure out as well. It was challenging and a lot of fun. And that’s how Jaimi does things – she sees what’s needed, sees that it’s done and sees the people you’re doing it with.
Susan Dennis, volunteer and board member:
In 2018, Greyson Holt and I began teaching the “Conversation Partners” English class at BIIN as volunteers. We wanted to acquire textbooks to use in the classes. When we made this request to Jaimi, she was immediately on board with us, and from that time forward, she was an enthusiastic and reliable source of support. The class eventually grew enough that we could offer four distinct levels of instruction with dedicated textbooks for each level. Under her direction, anything that we requested was immediately approved and delivered.
Her excellent abilities as an organizer and recruiter meant that we always had outstanding interns and reliable volunteers to help us during class. During the pandemic, when we began to offer our classes on Zoom, Jaimi secured access to Zoom and negotiated with the publisher of our textbooks so that we could continue to make the textbook materials available to all our students. Jaimi truly made it a pleasure to serve as a volunteer teacher for BIIN, and she will be sorely missed.
Yuliana Galarza, former BIIN intern:
I met Jaimi about halfway through my time at Texas A&M and her energy and passion for BIIN were so captivating! I went on to intern at BIIN and it was no surprise that Jaimi continued to be so enthusiastic about the work we were doing in the community. Thanks to her guidance and continuous encouragement, I realized I wanted to build a career in the nonprofit sector. Many years later, I’ve achieved that goal and can only hope to be as selfless a public servant as Jaimi has always been. I wish her all the wonderful things in life and I know that wherever life takes her, she will continue to inspire those around her!
Before taking on this role as Coordinator of English classes, I never understood the amount of work that goes into running a nonprofit or even the politics behind it. But it’s clear to me that as director Jaimi played a huge role in what BIIN is today. After COVID, being able to offer our services in person again is something many of the people we serve appreciate.
While I spent a limited amount of time at BIIN, I witnessed Jaimi’s dedication to BIIN and to strengthening the quality of the organization. Jaimi asked me to research databases that would make BIIN’s processes quicker and easier, and she really spearheaded the discovery and adoption of Salesforce.
In terms of her accomplishments, what comes to mind is Salesforce! Jaimi did not give up until she found us the perfect CRM software, which makes everything so much easier. Before, we used a dozen different softwares (including Excel spreadsheets) to store different data, but thanks to Jaimi, we have become a lot more organized, with one software and platform for all to use.
She’s kept us organized on so many other fronts too! BIIN has a much better structure thanks to her. It is all thanks to her devotion to this organization.
I think of all of the incredible grants BIIN has received in 2022 that Jaimi has played a part in, as well as getting our CRM into Salesforce – that will change the course of the non-profit in big ways. I know Jaimi worked tirelessly to find the best free resources and spent many sleepless nights teaching herself about Salesforce in order to better set up BIIN for success in the future.
Jaimi’s impact can be seen in so many ways, for example: the ease with which people can now learn about BIIN’s programs or sign up to volunteer; the number of folks who have discovered new skills and horizons as interns, staff or volunteers with BIIN; and the capabilities that she has brought to BIIN by introducing management tools such as Google Drive, Trello, and Salesforce.
Jaimi’s success in getting Salesforce customized for BIIN’s needs deserves special mention. She worked tirelessly on this project, finding experts and pro bono assistance, learning pathways and workarounds, and never letting go of the goal: to customize the platform so that all service metrics, volunteer records, revenues, etc. can be managed in one place. This makes it easier to do many things, including to demonstrate BIIN’s impact within and across programs.
Jaimi’s steady presence, her commitment to serving immigrants, and her investment in BIIN’s programs and systems have been incredible gifts to the organization and the wider community. Thank you, Jaimi, for all that you have given to BIIN and to each of us fortunate to work with you!
What has Jaimi done for BIIN? OMG, a book could be written about her contributions. The most important would be that she put BIIN on the map. Because of her outstanding work, people know who we are. Her administrative skills with the hundreds of interns, volunteers, and board members throughout the years (when some of us can at times be quite difficult) make her a great candidate for a Nobel Peace Prize in Brazos County. She will be greatly missed and a hard act to follow.
Mary Campbell, board member and volunteer:
Jaimi IS BIIN. She has been the glue holding us together ever since the day she started the job. I will miss her enthusiasm and her practical, pragmatic approach every day. And I’m going to miss her laugh!
At BIIN, Jaimi mobilized her bountiful energy and organizational skills to build a viable organization that can outlast any one person. Jaimi professionalized BIIN by creating organizational manuals, describing every position and its duties, preparing for challenges and organizational risks, and outlining program tasks. She built the internship and volunteer programs through which BIIN has expanded its services to both the immigrant community and students.
Jaimi’s experience in working with NGOs has benefitted BIIN tremendously. We now use specialty platforms to better communicate internally, follow through on tasks, raise funds, and contact volunteers. Preparing for her departure, she left multiple memos with detailed to-do lists. She is indeed a visionary in that she led us from a small organization built on hope and goodwill into a professional one. And she did it with kindness, smiles, and that oh-so-Jaimi laugh. Yes, there were frustrating moments too, but Jaimi has left BIIN better organized, stronger, and better prepared to help even more people. Thank you, Jaimi!