Ja’Lah Willingham joins Little Brothers Friends of The Elderly as Executive Director. She comes to the position with 10+ years’ of nonprofit experience from a number of organizations including – Public Allies Cincinnati, Public Allies National, The YMCA of Greater Cincinnati, and most recently, Meals on Wheels of Southwest OH & Northern KY. Ja’Lah brings a wealth of knowledge in volunteer management, fundraising, team building, senior advocacy, and organizational and program development.
Outside of the nonprofit sector Ja’Lah is also a proud Xavier Musketeer, Association of Fundraising Professionals Committee Member, Vistage Emerging Leader, and mother of two girls, Jayne and Joy. Ja’Lah enjoys trying new local restaurants and entertainment, fishing, spending time with family, and dreaming of opportunities for improvement.
Mary "Yogi" Wess
Elderly Services Coordinator
"The mission of Little Brothers–Friends of the Elderly is what attracted me to the organization 44 years ago and it is because of the simplicity, strength and beauty of the mission that I remain devoted to the organization."
Yogi first volunteered for LBFE in 1977 after having received her Associate's Degree in Human Services from Northern Kentucky University. Not quite sure what she wanted to do with her life, Yogi responded to a need for young interns at LBFE in Chicago. She worked in Chicago for the next 10 years, serving the elderly in some of the most economically depressed parts of the Windy City. While in Chicago, she met another LBFE volunteer, Randy Yauss, who later became her husband.
Yogi and Randy returned to Cincinnati in 1988 where Yogi returned to school to earn her Bachelor's Degree in Nursing from the University of Cincinnati. In 1989, the couple began doing the work of LBFE, becoming a "Friends of the LBFE group" and an expansion site of the national office in 1997, ultimately leading to an independent chapter in 2009. Yogi became Executive Director in 2002, a role she continues to hold today. She is the proud mother of two daughters, Clare and Lucy.
Program Volunteer Coordinator
"I began my journey with Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly in 2010 when I was looking for a Lenten goal. I started in the birthday visitor program and was touched by how this simple act of kindness touched people. LBFE prepared a bag of small gifts, flowers, and a personalized cake - my job was to deliver the goods and spend some time with the elderly on their birthday. I found the program rewarding and uplifting. The elderly recipients were so grateful and excited. They enjoyed everything, especially the companionship and, of course, the cake.
I next grew into a telephone reassurance volunteer and was paired with a wonderful lady, Linda. We talk between 2-4 times a week about everything from current events to great memories. We laugh a lot and we both benefit from our conversations. Linda has become a wonderful friend.
I was a teacher at St. Francis Seraph School for 13 years and found myself ready for a new challenge. Luckily, LBFE had an open position, so I joyfully accepted the position of Program and Volunteer Coordinator in 2022. I am honored to work with Yogi and Julie and all the amazing volunteers here at LBFE. They are all inspiring people who serve others with joy and laughter. I hope I can make a positive difference here at LBFE and will try my best every day to accomplish that goal.
CINCINNATI CHAPTER STAFF
Learn more about Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly.
"In November 2018, I was looking for a place to do some volunteering and discovered Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly, so I contacted them to learn more about the organization. The warm and friendly response I got to my initial inquiry about volunteering immediately made me realize I was looking at the right place. After learning more about the mission of LBFE, I knew this was what I wanted to do and started as a visiting volunteer. That was when I met my new friend, Joan, and began seeing her on a regular basis.
Sometime later, I learned that LBFE was looking for someone to help in the office on a part-time basis and I jumped at the chance to get more involved in LBFE. Somehow, I convinced Yogi to take a chance on me as an employee! I continued to work my full-time job in the legal field and worked part-time for LBFE. Moving forward, we discussed the opportunity of working full-time with LBFE and I made the decision to leave my decades-long career and join LBFE on a full-time basis. This was one of the best decisions I have ever made!
I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work with the LBFE staff and all of our wonderful volunteers. Talk about a special group of people! The mission of LBFE touches my heart and being more involved with our elderly friends has been the greatest gift of all."