JFC Executive Director David Rocha to Retire

MajorsSep 08, 2023

JFC Executive Director David Rocha to Retire

Rocha, who started his career at MJSA and was senior vice president of Jewelers of America, is stepping down after 20 years.

JFC Executive Director David Rocha at the Atlanta Jewelry Show
David Rocha, pictured at the Jewelers for Children booth at the Atlanta Jewelry Show in 2015, is retiring after 20 years as executive director of the industry charity. The search for his successor is underway.
New York—After 20 years, Jewelers for Children Executive Director David Rocha is set to retire at the end of the month, marking the end of an era for the industry’s most visible charity.   
Born and raised in southern Rhode Island, Rocha was working at a healthcare company in the IT department before he got his first job in the jewelry industry.  
When the company decided to relocate to Florida, Rocha didn’t want to go, he explained in a phone interview with National Jeweler Wednesday, opting instead to take a buyout package and work as a consultant. 
At that time, a friend of his worked for Providence, Rhode Island-based MJSA—then headed by Matt Runci—and so he did some consulting for the organization, which eventually turned into a full-time job.  
Initially, Rocha said he looked at working at MJSA as just a job. But over time, it grew to be more than that, and he learned what so many in the industry come to realize.  
“Like anyone else who sort of gets into the jewelry industry, you find out, you don’t really leave,” he said.  
He rose to the position of deputy executive director of MJSA before Runci, who became CEO of Jewelers of America in late 1995, recruited him to move to New York and work for JA.  
Initially, Rocha was hesitant. He had spent his whole life in Rhode Island and most of his family was there and in Massachusetts. New York City would be a big change of pace but, he said, “I decided to take the leap and come to New York.” 
Rocha was JA’s senior vice president, until another opportunity presented itself in the early aughts.  
“I still remember the first time I met a Make-A-Wish child and her family. I don’t like to use the term ‘life changing’ but it puts it all in perspective.”— David Rocha, Jewelers for Children  
Patti Light, who at one time was married to longtime Sterling Jewelers CEO Nate Light, was JFC’s executive director at the time, the first to hold the position. 
When she stepped down, Rocha decided it was a great opportunity to “do something that really felt good.” 
That was 2004, and Rocha has been running JFC ever since, aided in 17 of those 20 years by his longtime right-hand woman, Administrative Manager Barbara Fonseca.  
In that time, with all the trade shows and trips to Las Vegas, it’s understandably difficult to pinpoint favorite events or memorable moments.  
“There are so many things that stick out. I still remember the first time I met a Make-A-Wish child and her family,” he said. “I don’t like to use the term ‘life changing’ but it puts it all in perspective.”  
For Rocha, meetings like these always underscored the importance of his job and why he was working so hard with such a lean organization—the less money JFC uses to operate, the more it is able to pass along to organizations that help children.  
Since 1999, JFC has donated more than $61 million to its charity partners, which include Make-A-Wish America and Make-A-Wish International, as well as the National CASA/GAL Association, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and the Organization for Autism Research.  

Twenty years at JFC has brought plenty of changes, the same changes that have impacted the broader industry, such as advances in technology that have altered the way people interact and conduct business, and consolidation on both the supply and retail side. 
For JFC, the latter has had the biggest impact, as the organization used to draw a big chunk of its donations from the majors, but there are fewer now due to closures and mergers and acquisitions.  
Now JFC must rely more heavily on independent jewelers, and it requires more time and effort to reach them. “But,” Rocha added, “they are very loyal and such strong believers in the cause.”  
 Related stories will be right here … 
Rocha, who is 64, said for him, the decision to retire was age related. Constantly traveling to trade shows and going through setup and breakdown over and over again is not as easy as it used to be 20 years ago. 
He also wants to retire while he’s still young enough to enjoy it. “While I still can, I want to be able to do some other things in life. You never know what tomorrow holds.” 
Rocha’s official retirement date is Sept. 30, and the search is on for his successor.  
He said he timed his departure to coincide with the start of Citizen Watch America President Jeffrey Cohen’s two-year term as the new JFC board chair, though Rocha noted he will stay on beyond the end of the month if needed.  
He said he will miss JFC, the charities it supports, and the jewelry industry.  
“It’s an amazing industry of generous people who have created something magical,” he said. “The charity’s been around for 25 years now, and it’s made a difference for thousands and thousands of children … there’s nothing like it.” 
But he’s also looking forward to the next chapter in his life.  
For now, he plans to stay in Brooklyn, New York, where he’s lived for more than two decades, and sees himself potentially volunteering at a nonprofit a couple of days a week. Beyond that, it’s hard to say. 
“When you don’t have anything tying you down anymore, you don’t know when the next adventure will be,” Rocha said.  

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