Each month our Women of Impact profile features a local woman, nominated by a local community member, who is making an impact in our community. For this month's profile, Meredith Chandler spoke with Sheila Fox, a generous, loyal Federation donor and member of Beth El Temple who can often be found volunteering in Beth El’s beautiful gardens! Sheila was nominated by Laurie Mandell, Federation’s Annual Campaign Chair, for everything she does in our community.
What inspired you to get involved in our Jewish community?
My Jewish education instilled in me the importance of studying Torah and doing mitzvot (good deeds). So, like a detective, I’ve sought out good deeds to do! I believe the Torah inspires each of us to ask what we can do for others. When we find a mitzvah that’s a good fit for our skills, it makes everyone happy. I have enough to meet my needs in life, and that has made me very aware of how important it is to give back. Gardening is my special skill, so that’s how I give back.
What have you done to make a positive impact?
I design and maintain gardens at Jewish organizations all over West Hartford. In addition to Beth El, I garden at Chabad of Greater Hartford, University of Hartford Chabad, Jewish Family Services and Hoffman SummerWood, to name a few. I’ve negotiated discounted prices with local growers and I often share plants among the different sites where I garden. I prefer to garden with perennials; although they cost more upfront, they come back year after year. My flowers are my “babies”!
I try to make my gardens aesthetically pleasing by using colors and sizes of plants that complement each building. I also try to weave symbolism into my gardens – for example I’ll use the color red to symbolize the burning bush. Some of my favorite flowers are geraniums, ginger, pansies, marigolds, hostas, snapdragons, daisies and irises.
My head isn’t always “in the dirt” though… I’ve served on the Federation’s Board of Directors and I am now a Community Trustee.
What was your biggest setback, and what is your proudest accomplishment?
My greatest setback was when Ted, my husband of 53 years, had a heart attack. However, we felt the total support of our Jewish community. They showed such faith in Ted, and we are so grateful for everyone’s support. And my proudest accomplishment was raising our two sons, Terrence and Trevor.
What role has Judaism played in your life?
Jewish teachings are a source of great inspiration for me. In addition to studying Torah and doing mitzvot, I try to think about how Jewish stories and holidays apply to my everyday life. For example, to me, Passover is about breaking free from the things that hold us back. And Hanukkah is about remembering to bring light into our lives.
I get so much from Judaism. At one point, I belonged to five different synagogues! A rabbi once told me that it’s not that I don’t know where I belong; it’s that I belong everywhere.
I really appreciate the warm community feeling that’s growing from Federation’s new Women of Impact program. I believe it’s important for everyone to feel included.
Is there any advice you’d like to share with other women?
First, be passionate! I love enthusiastic people, and I love seeing people get involved. Second, take the initiative. If you see something that needs to be done, step forward and help. Finally, don’t “just do it.” Ask how you can make it better or more beautiful!
To nominate a Jewish woman from Greater Hartford to be featured in a Women of Impact profile, contact Meredith Chandler, Associate Vice President, Development and Director, Women's Philanthropy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860.727.6125.