Everyone needs their own spot in the world.

That was the central message presented by Morrie Enders, executive director of Lincoln Community Playhouse, in his keynote address Feb. 9 at the Association of Nonprofit Executives’ annual Executive of the Year award luncheon in the Cornhusker Marriott Renaissance Room.

“I would bet that our nominees all have a quotable quote or two that have guided them along their paths and readily come to mind during their daily activities,” Enders said. “I found one of mine in a calendar many years ago. It guides me – so much, in fact, that I purchased a print of it. It’s a print by Mary Engelbreit of a boy hugging a dog with the title, ‘Everyone needs their own spot.’

“It serves as a reminder to me of what we, nonprofit executives, do every day,” Enders added. “We help people find their spot.”

As a boy, Enders said he was sure sports was not his spot.

“I have never successfully hit a baseball with a baseball bat,” he said.

Then in fourth grade, he played a king in a classroom play. His costume was his bathrobe from home.

“For the first time in my life, I was popular,” he said. “Maybe not so strong a word as ‘popular’ – for the first time in my life, I was ‘visible.’ Kids came up to me and told me I did a good job. I had accomplished something, and it felt good. And I’ve never left this theatrical spot.”

In 30 years as a professional in community theater, Enders said he has seen many people find their spot. He has seen kids with disabilities make progress their parents didn’t know was possible after performing in a Penguin Project play with a peer mentor.

While working with seniors, Enders discovered that “finding a spot” is not only about young people. Seniors go through changes like retirement, a spouse’s death or the need to move to a care facility – and they need to find a new spot.

“When our seniors performed ‘Grease’ last year, one of the actors, who had lost her husband the year before, told us that this was the first time she felt she could go on. She had experienced her first sense of joy in a year. She auditioned for us again this week. She needed a new spot, and she found it.”

Looking around at the nonprofit executives in the room, Enders continued: “I’m sure as I’ve been giving examples, you’ve all had your own examples of people in your groups who have come to you needing their own spot – and how they found it with you.

“You all bring hope to our community,” he added. “You all bring passion and compassion to your sacred work of making this world better – one person at a time.”

Enders gave examples of how each of the five award finalists, as executive directors of their respective nonprofit organizations, helps people find their spots. Those finalists were Drew Duncan of Abendmusik, Randy Hawthorne of Nonprofit Hub, Christina Hoyt of Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, Peggy Reisher of the Brain Injury Alliance of Nebraska and Monica Zinke of Fresh Start.

Nonprofit Executive of the Year

Master of Ceremonies Rod Fowler of KLKN-TV News introduced this year’s Nonprofit Executive of the Year award winner, Monica Zinke, executive director of Fresh Start since 2008. Fresh Start is a transitional shelter that empowers homeless women to make positive change, Zinke told her nonprofit peers.

“We work with some of the most disenfranchised people,” she said. “Fresh Start is their spot where they can be believed and feel self-worth.

“This award recognizes the work we do at Fresh Start, so I thank you very much.”

During her 20-plus years of working in human services, Zinke has focused on needs ranging from homelessness to mental health to disaster recovery. She has a master’s degree in human services and is a licensed mental health practitioner in Nebraska.

As a passionate advocate for women and the homeless, Zinke is active in related community efforts including the Lincoln/Lancaster Homeless Coalition and Project Homeless Connect, Nebraska Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, Human Services Federation, and a new trauma-informed task force organized by Lancaster County Community Corrections.

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