Changing Our World: Jean-Marc Torre
This profile series highlights colleagues across Bank of the West who serve our communities through board service or volunteerism. Jean-Marc Torre, head of the Commercial Banking Group, talks about his support for LINES Ballet and Lava Mae, and why he’s passionate about his involvement with them.
What inspired you to get involved?
I’ve worked in several countries and I’ve always looked for ways to contribute. Like all of us, I am part of the community and I think it’s very important to do what you can to make things better. Also I’m originally from Corsica and in our culture the sense of community is very strong. Whoever you are, whatever you do, you are a member of the community with a human connection that goes beyond privilege or circumstances. Working with Lava Mae and LINES helps me feel connected in ways that are important to me personally.
Tell us about the organizations you serve and what they do.
I’ve been involved with Alonzo King LINES Ballet (LINES). Alonzo is a great choreographer and LINES is a world-renowned dance company. They also have education programs that reach out to underserved children in the San Francisco Bay Area and offer scholarships to young dancers. LINES is founded on Alonzo’s belief in dance as an art form and how its benefits can extend to help people embrace life and find their authentic selves. Their work is fantastic and I am proud that Bank of the West and BNP Paribas supports them.
I’m also thrilled to be involved with Lava Mae where I’m also a board director. Lave Mae repurposes retired San Francisco Muni buses into mobile shower and sanitation units. The founder, Doniece Sandoval, recognized that being homeless makes lack of cleanliness a key barrier to self-respect and being able to bounce back to a normal life. Lava Mae treats their “clients” with radical hospitality and also co-ordinates with other nonprofits focused on homelessness to help people access services that can help them. Originally founded in San Francisco, Lava Mae has expanded their critical support to include the metropolitan Los Angeles area.
How did you choose the organizations you serve?
BNP Paribas Foundation had an existing relationship with LINES and there were opportunities for me to get involved. I find Alonzo’s philosophy — about art helping people to truly be themselves — very powerful. Lava Mae was founded by a friend of mine and it is a wonderful organization that’s having a real impact on homelessness, something which is hard to ignore in San Francisco. It’s important to find opportunities to contribute in your own way, offering your skills and experience in a spirit of collaboration.
What makes an effective board member?
You have to be collaborative and have good communication skills, especially listening. Board members are not staff so you need to be clear about your role. The staff and volunteers who actually do the work embody the organization’s mission and your role as a board member is to help them deliver that mission.
What does community outreach say our organization?
Our bank is a team of people, and how we interact with our community says a lot about who we are and how others see us. It matters that we’re involved and that our resources and people can make a difference. To me, caring is simply a part of who we are.
Learn more about Lava Mae in the video below.