My Dad used to say go all the way or go home. Justin Berke is one of those rare people who goes all the way when it comes to his community and beliefs. He became involved in the community just a few years ago and his impact was immediate. Justin’s engaging personality, warm demeanor, and contagious laugh makes him one of the best “friend” machines in the community. He uses his power to bring everyone into his world to benefit the community he serves with passion.
Not one to sit on the sidelines, Justin joined the Rotary and the Brookline Chamber of Commerce and got to work. Brookline is a town of committees, in fact, there are well over 100 (literally). As with most groups of people, committees usually consist of those that talk and a very small minority that do. He knew right away his opinions would carry more weight if he volunteered his services and followed through with his promises. He has never failed. There are a lot of good adjectives that describe a good person. Three of my favorites are dependable, consistent, and sincere. Justin Berke’s commitments to these virtues were in part why he was named the Brookline Chamber’s new member of the year in 2010.
Many people volunteer for a task if it makes them look good. For Justin, it’s about doing what needs to be done. No task is too difficult or mundane that he feels it beneath him. He has the ability to run an entire organization, as he will when he becomes the new President of the Brookline Rotary in September, but I’ve seen him sit at donation tables, clean up after events, schlep things around, hang up posters, what ever is needed to make the event or the organization successful.
Brookline’s big man knows no limits when it comes to the amount of people and causes he helps. Justin’s efforts also serve Brookline Adult and Community Education, Brookline Symphony, Brookline Arts Center, Brookline Literacy Partnership, the Brookline Teen Center, and the Brookline Food Festival. In his spare time, Mr. Berke serves as a delegate to the Democratic State Convention.
Involvement like this doesn’t happen in a vacuum; Justin is a chip off the old block. As he puts it, his parents were both “social justice people”, and it didn’t stop with them. Giving back is part of the Berke family across the generations. Justin’s wife Libby works for New Profit, a non-profit that supports social justice entrepreneurs. Their youngest daughter, Julia, helped sell Girl Scout cookies for her troop at the Rotary’s ‘Have a Heart Chocolate Extravaganza’, a fundraiser to benefit local food pantries. Both Julia and Hannah Berke participated in Purple Pinky Day, an event through which Rotary raises money for the worldwide Polio Plus campaign to eradicate the dreadful disease. The girls also collected donations on Marathon Monday for the Special Olympics.
One of Justin’s many strengths are flexibility and foresight. When he is President of Rotary, his goal is to make it an umbrella organization for community service within Brookline. This can be done through “cohesive branding and messaging, using social media and print media, such as issuing many press releases about all Rotary’s activities”. He wants to change the organization’s image from “stodgy” to a dynamic giving organization.
On a more personal note, it’s not easy to describe all the roles Justin played in to supporting the BrooklineHub.com Youth Awards and Feed Brookline campaigns. He’s promoted our causes, volunteered on committees, done whatever he’s been asked and came up with his own ways to help when we couldn’t think of anything for him to do. You know those friends who are so close, so trusted, you don’t mind referring to them as family? Justin Berke is part of the BrooklineHub.com family.
Justin and I have a special bond, we both love food, and we know where to find it. A transplanted New Yorker and Yankee fan, living near Fenway Park is far from what causes him the most angst about living in the Boston area. Justin knows good pizza and he knows the best pie is in the New York/New Jersey area. It is no wonder his favorite day of the year is Patriots Day when Rotarians dish up hot dogs and hamburgers to raise money for Special Olympics. Justin can be seen at the event manning the grill, next year with me by his side serving as his best customer.
Not limited to non-profit and social justice causes alone, Justin is also deeply invested in civic responsibility. His goal is to get as many Brooklinites registered to vote as possible.
Of course Justin’s extra curricular activities are impressive, but there is more to him than that. He supports his family as a successful businessman in the financial services industry, but far and away, Justin’s most meaningful calling is his devotion to Libby, Hannah and Julia.
Bottom line, when Justin sees it’s within his power to do something he believes is in, he reaches out and gets it done.
Co-written by Harvey Bravman and Bev Zibrak