A deep commitment to AFSC fuels decades of service

For decades, their lives have interwoven with and been enriched by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). But Arlene Kelly and Helene Pollock have also given back time, energy, and financial resources to the organization they say has provided them with seminal, unforgettable experiences.

“We have a deep, deep commitment to the organization as it reflects the values that we espouse,” Helene explains.

Arlene and Helene have been together for 36 years, but their connection to the Service Committee predates their own relationship. Arlene, a retired social worker, first became aware of the organization after joining the Society of Friends in college. After graduation, she volunteered for an AFSC work camp in Germany in 1959.

“That was a very stretching experience,” Arlene recalls. “I had never traveled much. When my mother said goodbye, clearly she thought she’d never see me again!”

Her involvement with AFSC deepened when she was asked to serve on the AFSC Board of Directors in the early 1980s. She credits her time on the Board’s National Affirmative Action Committee for deepening her commitment to diversity.

After another break, she rejoined the Board in the mid-1990s, serving on the Board’s Human Resources Committee and later working as interim director of AFSC’s Human Resources Department. She joined the Board again in 2006 and, among other assignments, clerked the Simplicity Implementation Committee before becoming clerk of the Board in 2009—just as the organization was grappling with one of the worst financial crises in its history.

Helene is quick to point out a quality in Arlene’s leadership that helped contribute to AFSC’s turnaround. “Arlene is unshakeable. She’s not affected by things that might cause others to cringe or give up,” Helene says. “It’s like the ballast in the boat, keeping a firm eye on moving forward.”

For her part, Helene, who’s also a Quaker, has had a long affiliation with groups working for human rights and social change in Latin America. So when Arlene recommended her for AFSC’s Latin America panel in 1987, she jumped at the chance.

She spent a dozen years on the panel, including several years in a volunteer position, coordinating recruitment for AFSC’s work camps in Mexico. Her paid work was at Haverford College, most recently as Director of Quaker Affairs.

Now retired, both women are pleased to continue supporting AFSC financially through charitable remainder trusts and gift annuities.

“Neither of us has a philosophy of handing money down through family if there’s no need,” Arlene says. “We prefer to turn it back to the general good.”