Ellen Rafferty’s is the kind of job that makes you want to ask: How did you get it? And how can I get one like it?
Ellen, the newest member of the board of Family Promise (FP) of Bergen County, is manager of social investing at BD, the Franklin Lakes-based medical technology company (known until 1999 as Becton Dickinson) that makes and sells medical devices and instrument systems.
Basically, that means she makes her living trying to help others and to make the world a better place. Specifically, her portfolio includes BD’s worldwide product donation program and managing relations with the nonprofits the company supports.
She can’t necessarily tell you how to get a job like hers, but she can explain how she did. It started with luck. “I was really fortunate,’’ she says. “I was in the right place at the right time.’’
The time was October, 2002, when she was hired as a temporary assistant in BD’s public relations office, which at the time included the company’s community relations division.
She was hired fulltime the following year, on St. Patrick’s Day, and never looked back.
Ellen says she developed an interest in helping others growing up, as a parishioner of St. John Roman Catholic Church in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx. She was a lay reader, an usher and visited nursing homes. These days she’s married with two children, and lives in Nanuet.
BD’s connection to Family Promise’s work dates back almost two decades, and began with a personal connection: Edward J. Ludwig, BD’s CEO and board chairman, lived on the same street as FP matriarch Nancy S. Woods.
Ellen came to know FP through programs BD supported; she says that when she was invited last year to join the board, it seemed like a natural fit.
She was particularly attracted to what she describes as FP’s “holistic’’ approach to helping the homeless: “It’s not just, ‘Here’s a meal,’ or ‘Here’s a bed for a few nights.’ It’s ‘Here’s how to make a savings plan or a family budget.’ We can help with day care, and transportation.’’
Ellen says she’d like to help the FP board become more diversified in age, skills and perspectives. She also hopes to share her understanding of how companies view being solicited for support. “It’s like dating — you have to get to know each other,’’ she explains. “Before you make ‘the ask,’ you want to make clear what you (the nonprofit) bring to the table.’’
Above all, she’d like to find ways to serve more of the county’s homeless.
“People think of Bergen County and they think wealth, big houses. They might not realize that for a lot of people, one financial crisis can change everything drastically. Just one issue can create havoc.’’