Standing Strong for Those in Trauma
Jill Bernacki has always felt a calling toward helping people. While spending 16 years in the hospitality industry, she always believed something was missing. In 2008, Bernacki began volunteering with Trauma Intervention Program of Southern Nevada and immediately fell in love with everything the organization does to help those at scenes of sudden or unexpected traumatic events that occur daily.
In 2011, Bernacki took a leap of faith and left her position for the nonprofit world when she was hired as CEO of TIP. She now describes the career change as “ the best thing I’ve done in my life. I had a successful career in hotel management and was happy with what I did but I didn’t have that sense of personal fulfillment. My inspiration for taking this risky nonprofit job over a stable career was the thought of making a difference, every day, in the lives of those who have suffered great loss. I haven’t looked back since.”
Since she began as CEO, TIP has grown exponentially. Its volunteer base has nearly doubled, full-time staff has been added and the group recently moved into new offices. Bernacki has been responsible for creating employee and volunteer handbooks, financial policies and a vital education piece for emergency response agencies. She continues to respond to calls and assist at scenes, is a nationally certified TIP trainer and a crisis intervention training instructor with the Las Vegas Metro Police Department. She also serves as a part-time investigator with the Clark County Coroner’s Office.
Her family moved to Las Vegas when Bernacki was 2 years old and she has called Southern Nevada home ever since. She is a graduate of Clark High School and received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Bernacki’s parents are her inspiration and she explained, “I was raised by two wonderful parents who always encouraged volunteerism, compassion and caring for others. My mom has been a hospital chaplain for over 30 years. She used to make me go to a nursing home on my summer breaks from school every Friday to visit the residents and play the piano during coffee hour. That was the beginning of the realization that helping others made me feel whole.”
Mentors have been very important in Bernacki’s growth. “One of the very first managers I ever had taught me the importance of focusing on strengths. He was very open with teaching me anything I wanted to know about the operational, financial and administrative aspects of the company. I learned that it’s important to encourage growth, to work hard, but to also have fun while doing it,” she said. “We connected during the time I was internally debating leaving my stable career to run TIP. His encouragement to consider my happiness and his confidence in my ability to run an organization helped push me in the direction to accept the challenge.”
Bernacki also believes in helping others find their destiny. “I have been fortunate enough to be a part of several women’s personal journey in finding success. For everyone, that success is different. For one, it was walking her through several years of climbing the corporate ladder and then helping her make the decision to do what was best for her family by quitting her job and staying home with the kids. To this day, she wouldn’t trade her working years for anything (or her decision to be a stay at home mom), as she was able to accomplish many of the life goals she created for herself.”
Bernacki’s philosophy is that everyone should be true to themselves and not conform to anyone else’s idea of who they should be. Bernacki lives this belief every day and is truly a Fearless Female.