Jennifer O’Farrell, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Inland Empire, was named Social Entrepreneur of the Year at the 16th annual Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards on Nov. 15. The black-tie gala, referred to by top professionals as the “Oscars of Business,” brought together nearly 1,000 of the region’s preeminent leaders to celebrate innovation from a wide range of industries.
Jennifer’s passion for social impact stems from her years working with youth in crisis at Operation SafeHouse, where she advocated on behalf of those facing violence, poverty and human trafficking.
Seeing the faces of countless young children unable to reach their full potential due to circumstances beyond their control inspired Jennifer to seek a more preventive solution: Could a positive presence early on in a child’s development change their trajectory? The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters—to provide youth facing adversity with professionally supported one-to-one mentoring relationships—brought Jennifer to the Inland Empire office as its executive director in 2014.
She was tasked with transforming a start-up agency that had only six employees and served fewer than 200 children. Despite having limited resources available, Jennifer zeroed in on the two obstacles impeding their growth: financial stability and volunteer recruitment.
Under her leadership, the office experienced incredible success in both categories, with the launch of a Workplace Mentoring program, several advisory boards, three signature fundraisers and innovative campaigns to emphasize the urgent need for volunteers. She also tripled the size of her staff by assembling a team that shared her passion for shaping the region’s future workforce through one-to-one mentorship.
In 2018, the agency relocated to a larger, more centralized headquarters in Riverside, expanded its High School Bigs program to three new sites in Rialto and reached its five-year goal of serving 1,000 youth in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
But this is just the beginning of Jennifer’s vision for the future. She intends to continue growing the agency’s reach in the community and foster deeper relationships with private businesses and individuals with a singular goal in mind: to bring generational change to families across the region.
Please join us in congratulating Jennifer on this incredible accomplishment!