Celebrating Lauren Deshpande, SJC’s Volunteer Coordinator

At SJC, we have the best volunteers in the world. And it’s not just us who says that – other airports recognize the great work our team does in fostering an environment that supports and relies on volunteers. 

Lauren Deshpande


Recently, Pittsburgh International Airport published an article about SJC’s volunteer program, managed by Lauren Deshpande, in their weekly newsletter, Blue Sky News. The article became a headline in Centerlines Today (Airports Council International – North America’s daily aviation newsletter), highlighting what airports across the country are doing to reward their volunteers. Lauren was recognized for her collaboration with the City Manager’s Office last year to provide volunteers with tickets to San José Sharks games in the City’s box suite. With her unwavering passion and dedication, she believes in showing gratitude toward the volunteers who make our airport a welcoming and friendly place.

Those who went to the Sharks hockey games left feeling appreciated and re-energized. They each received a hand-written holiday card thanking them for all their hard work.

Volunteers


In her own words, Lauren considers our volunteers "invaluable." She knows firsthand that they possess a unique blend of patience and empathy, qualities that are essential when assisting fellow travelers. Many of the volunteers Lauren hires are seasoned travelers themselves, individuals who understand what it's like to find oneself in unfamiliar and occasionally challenging situations while journeying through the bustling world of air travel.

A couple of weeks ago, a handful of enthusiastic therapy animal volunteers from the newly re-branded SJC Happy Tails team gave up their lunch hours to join Lauren on a British podcast hosted by LoveFly – an organization that helps people overcome their fear of flying – to discuss what it’s like when they provide comfort to passengers. Many shared stories about their animals bringing tears of joy to travelers in distress and why they love volunteering, a reward in itself, at the Airport. It’s a much happier environment than some other places they volunteer at, such as hospitals. And here, at SJC, they can volunteer whenever they want – something other airports don’t allow them to do. Additionally, they receive social media kudos and SJC swag during National Volunteer Appreciation Week and National Aviation Week.

Lauren’s efforts and leadership are a true testament to the power of recognizing and appreciating those who make a difference every day. Since becoming SJC’s volunteer coordinator in October 2021, she has grown the Volunteer Program by 77%. Starting out with just 25 information volunteers and 32 therapy animal volunteers, Lauren now manages 58 information booth volunteers and 43 therapy animal volunteers – a grand total of 101 people with eight more volunteers in the badging pipeline. As of this week, these volunteers, who live as far away as Sacramento – yes, you read that right! – have broken 2022’s year-end service record by collectively serving more than 3,000 hours at the airport!

Also a few weeks ago, on behalf of all the City’s volunteer coordinators (from Parks, Recreation & Neighborhood Services; the Library; the Police Department and the Animal Shelter), Lauren spoke to representatives from the City Manager’s Office, City Attorney’s Office and Employee Relations, about the value of a volunteer hour and the need for rewards and recognition for those who serve our city for free. She’s part of a committee evaluating and developing the City’s volunteer coordinator guidelines as well as volunteer recognition policies.

It’s clear that Lauren’s heartfelt appreciation for the volunteers at SJC has gone a long way toward executing the Airport’s Mission Statement: to connect, serve and inspire our community.

Are you or someone you know interested in volunteering at the Airport? Learn more.