NASW-Nevada Executive Director J.D. Fripp said that even though he is not a professional social worker, he has been one in spirit since he was a small child growing up on welfare in New York City.
“I was at the heart of Harlem, in terms of social economics,” he said.
As a kid, Fripp would sometimes accompany his grandmother to the welfare office. His family was very poor, he said, and he remembers the social workers who helped during the visits.
“I distinctly remember the days of sitting across the desk of a social worker, and back then, we got food stamps, and government-issued cheese and peanut butter” Fripp said. “I knew even then I wanted to see ways of helping people.”
Despite his humble beginnings, Fripp said his grandmother instilled an ethic into him and his siblings to give back to the community and work hard. A talented basketball player and academically prone to excel, Fripp won academic and athletic scholarships that took him first to an elite boarding school in upstate New York, and later to Stanford University in California.
“In high school, I initially wanted to do something with people or politics, and sociology and political science were my major areas of interest,” he said.
Fripp’s academic journey led him to graduate from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, and later a master’s in education from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. He admits it’s a little unusual to be an executive director at NASW without formal social work degrees, but in a way he sees it as a good thing.
“One of the things that I really appreciated is that while I know that (NASW was) looking for someone who is a social worker, I bring a certain set of skills and neutrality to a profession that needs new thoughts and new ways of doing business,” he said. “And I’m pretty good at taking an uncertain beginning and bringing a certainty to it.”
Fripp has been the NASW-Nevada ED for more than a year, and came to the position after working for more than 15 years in a variety of roles, including leading start-up organizations; providing leadership to agencies assisting families with at-risk, in-crisis children; and actively participating in legislative advocacy.
“ ... Being at NASW offers me an opportunity to get in an environment to help a lot of folks, and I want to continue to build upon the help factor,” he said.
Membership for the Nevada Chapter is steady at 660, Fripp said, and there are several projects he is planning to implement. These involve outreach to attract more members and engaging technology so existing members get the most out of their membership.
“Nothing gives me greater joy than giving social workers greater tools to help people,” he said. “And nothing pains me more than hearing a social worker say they were sitting across from a kid, trying to help, and they wish they had updated information sources to help them.”
Nevada has vast rural expanses, Fripp said, and he wants to expand teleconferencing ability to gain chapter visibility in those rural areas and to have more of an online presence. It would also allow social workers to avoid driving hundreds of miles to attend meetings. He said he also wants the chapter to be effective and continue to grow.
“Our membership will increase, but we have to be relevant to that social worker behind the desk and in the field,” he said. “Our outreach is involving the local mom-and-pop organizations that have social workers within them.”
Those tend to be hidden, and the goal is to reach out to them and the rural community, he said.
Although Fripp’s grandmother is no longer with him, he said she would be very happy and proud of him and his siblings.
“I have a brother who is a social worker, a police officer sister, and myself trying to put a hand in there to help,” he said. “This is what my grandmother taught all of us to do — give back.”