Jaime Counterman. Courtesy Ele’s Place
Editor’s note: Each Q&A in the Influential Women enewsletter will feature a woman from the region who’s influential, a rising face in her industry or doing interesting work. Submit tips on potential Q&A subjects to tgortsema at grbj dot com.
Jaime Counterman said she’s “fortunate” to have served West Michigan through philanthropy for more than a decade, and she tries to live by the motto, “We rise by lifting others.”
Counterman is the director of Ele’s Place Grand Rapids.
She chooses to align professionally with causes she supports personally, such as equity in health care, mental health services, youth and gender-related issues, because it fuels her passion for the work.
When she’s not connecting other people’s passions with various missions, she's likely playing a competitive game of Candyland with her husband, Aron, and 5-year-old daughter, Olivia.
Biggest career break?
Acting as executive director of the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation Great Lakes Chapter. I didn’t know it at the time, but serving in a role with such responsibilities (and a shoe-string budget!) so early in my work experience taught me to be resourceful, to value the support of both volunteers and my development peers and that I could shoulder more than I ever anticipated possible as the young leader of an organization.
A special “proud moment” happened last month. As I finished our 2019 budget planning at home, my 5-year-old daughter came up to me and said, “Good job finishing your homework, Mommy!” I was so moved that she 1) sees the time I spend as a mom working outside the home as valuable and 2) that we have instilled in her to celebrate the efforts of another person of her own volition. Heart emojis all around!
Best advice you’ve ever received?
You can’t control everything, so hope for the best but plan for the worst.
How did you make your first dollar?
My first official job was at my hometown video store-tanning salon … which I find ironic now after many years spent serving the mission of the American Cancer Society!
I have two rings I wear always: my wedding ring and a ring that belonged to my cousin, Heather, who at 21, died of cancer when I was a young adult. The first because I take our promise seriously (the minister literally read “for-ev-er” a la “The Sandlot” in our vows) and the second because wearing Heather’s ring keeps her memory alive for me every day.
I enjoy managing people in a way that helps them find their best self in their work, so I hope to be a Simon Sinek-style “authentic leadership” speaker and author. I should probably start writing then …
If you were president for a day, you would … ?
Since I’m about to start my master’s program, top of mind for me is to forgive student loan debt!
Last book you read?
“Girl, Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis
Last search term you googled?
“Meena” singing “Hallelujah” from “SING” (at my daughter’s request)
Your worst habit?
Worrying. Hi, my name is Jaime, and I am a classic over-thinker!
To unwind, you like to … ?
Watch movies on the couch with Aron & Olivia. When life can be so frenetic, the stillness of this feeds my soul.
Not a food, but a beverage: frilly coffee drinks! Think peppermint stick mocha or vanilla sweet cream coldbrew. I fully admit I take a little coffee with my cream and sugar.
Person you most admire?
My husband, Aron. He’s an exceptional father and spouse, and I’m grateful for him every day!