It’s Noelle Nachreiner’s job to travel the U.S. and abroad, finding out what the nation’s 12,000 Jaycees are doing right, patting them on the back for it and sharing that good news wherever she goes.
“We all want the same things,” said Nachreiner, 37, of Indianapolis, the organization’s national president. “We want to make our communities better places to live, work and play. Uniting is what Jaycees do very well.”
Jaycees, formally known as Junior Chamber International, are holding their statewide convention at the Northern Hotel Friday and Saturday. About 70 members from eight chapters, including Billings, are expected.
Among the celebrating, learning, competing and speechifying, attendees will also put in a few hours Saturday at the Montana Rescue Mission, sorting donations and completing other tasks.
Nachreiner said until she arrived in Montana this week, she hadn’t heard of a community service component as part of a statewide convention. She said she’ll be putting that bug in the ears of other chapters.
JCI is a membership-based nonprofit organization of young active people ages 18-40 who are dedicated to creating positive change in more than 600 communities around the country.
Three weeks ago, Nachreiner was in Ecuador, representing the United States at a meeting of the presidents of the nations of the Americas. Last fall, she attended the organization’s World Congress in Amsterdam.
She and other members “get out of our organization what we put into it, and the opportunities are endless,” she said. “You gain a lot of soft skills as you leave high school or college.”
Nachreiner’s day job is communications and programs manager for Alpha Gamma Delta Foundation, a nonprofit that supports an international women’s fraternity through grants for education, philanthropy and leadership. A graduate of Michigan State University, she and her husband Ian reside just outside Indianapolis with their dog, Hank the Tank.
Managing people, projects, events, a budget — all are skills Nachreiner said she’s learned and refined during her 13 years as a Jaycee. Through it all, she’s paid less than $1,000 in dues — an average of about 77 bucks each year.
“In our heyday in the 1980s, we were focused on raising money for ourselves and other organizations,” she said. “Today we’re more focused on community problems — identifying issues and trying to help find a sustainable solution.”
In Billings, those solutions have involved staging a fun run, Tails and Trails, which raises money for a spay/neuter program, and easing the growing problem of teen homelessness, said Crystal Hill, communications vice president for the Billings Jaycees chapter.
Nachreiner said Friday morning she was eager to meet Montana Jaycees attending the year-end conference. In addition to the state’s two largest chapters, Billings and Havre, attendees hail from Laurel, Miles City, Glendive, Sidney, Dillon and the Central Montana chapter.
“These are people who get things done in their communities,” she said. “Every time I visit a chapter, I’m astounded by the incredible work they are doing.”