When I met Jody Hudson just about a year ago, her charm and dedication to the community left a lasting impression. When I was crowned Miss Fresno County, I made it my goal to serve my community with the same light and enthusiasm Jody showed me.
Jody serves as a leader in our community with the impacts she’s made as the founder of the Alex Hudson Lyme Foundation. She’s also dedicated her time working for the Southern Central California Girl Scouts and has solidified herself as a business leader in our community.
Q: Who inspired you growing up?
A: Unfortunately, I did not have a mentor or an inspiring figure when I was growing up. I was born to a single mother who placed me in foster care when I was born. Several months later I was adopted by parents who battled alcoholism. It wasn’t the best scenario. I spent most of my childhood trying to forget about my childhood. That is why I am so passionate about mentoring and helping young women today. It’s important for me to share experiences and pass on nuggets of wisdom on things that I had to learn the hard way. But then it’s also made me into the strong, independent woman that I am today.
Q: You’re very involved in the community; How do you inspire others to do the same?
A: I learned at a young age to have a servant’s heart. My father was a teacher and a summer camp director. Most of my summers were spent on the shores of Lake Michigan working with underprivileged children from the inner city of Grand Rapids, MI. It broke my heart to see children jump off the school bus with only a grocery bag of clothing for two weeks. I literally wanted to give all of my clothing away. While I myself was not well off by any means, I appreciated the fact that I had a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food in my belly. That stuck with me and formed my empathy and compassion for others. It is what we must do as a Christian. “To whom much is given, much will be required.” Luke 12:48
Q: As the founder of your own non-profit organization, what is one thing you want young women to know about being a self-starter?
A: Wow, just one thing… I could tell you many. The one thing that sticks with me and motivates me is purpose. To do anything well in life requires disciplined focus and purpose. When my daughter passed away at the young age of 22 from Lyme disease, I had a choice to make. I could choose to wallow in self-pity and go dark, or I could choose to honor her name and carry out her legacy in a meaningful way. I chose the light. I chose a way to honor Alex and make sure that the pain and suffering she endured would have meaning. I would attach her suffering to my life’s work and purpose. Once you figure out your purpose, the rest just flows naturally.
Q: I know when I studied engineering at Fresno State, I felt very underrepresented, being one of the few girls in every class. Have you ever felt underrepresented as a woman in your workforce? What advice would you give to young women having those same feelings?
A: I have never felt underrepresented in my professional career, but I have felt an uphill battle in my advocacy work with the Alex Hudson Lyme Foundation. I think there is a correlation between feeling underrepresented as a female in the workforce and facing an uphill battle with advocacy work. It’s the belief system. It’s getting people to validate your work. It’s having to put double the amount of effort into everything that you say and do. It’s exhausting. But it can also be the most rewarding thing that happens to you. When you finally get people’s attention and they start listening to you- that’s magic.
Q: What should young professionals know when entering the workforce?
A: Times have changed from when I first entered the workforce many years ago. I think work ethics have changed and I feel as if everyone is more keenly aware of balance. I would encourage young professionals to have more “pause” moments and appreciate the processes as well as the accomplishments. I would also encourage them to find the person whose best at what they want to get good at and have them be your mentor. When I first entered the non-profit sector from the retail industry, I had a learning curve. I asked around and found out who my pace-setter was. Who was doing what I wanted to eventually do. I reached out to that person and asked for advice. It accelerated my growth rate and it shortened my learning curve. Lastly, I would encourage young professionals to be authentic and lead with value. You will go much further providing value to as many people as you can with little expectation for anything in return.
Q: After already achieving so much successes with the Alex Hudson Lyme Foundation, what’s next for you and the organization?
A: I have been blessed by such great success with the Alex Hudson Lyme Foundation from the onset. Research grants, Lyme patient financial grants for treatment, and community advocacy events/fundraisers are just a few of our early accomplishments. Our next goals will be our co-sponsored Lyme curriculum with the Girl Scouts of Central California South and our distribution of Lyme literate books for all Fresno/Clovis elementary schools. I also would like to focus on CME’s for our medical community, so they can better understand the symptoms of Lyme disease and its treatment. In addition, I am working on a book that details Alex’s journey with Lyme disease and the spiritual formation that took place. I am hoping to have it released in 2021.