Who has inspired you?
Helen Boosalis. Helen was a pioneer for women in politics as far back as the early 1960s. She served on the Lincoln City Council for 16 years and went on to serve as Lincoln’s first female mayor and was a gubernatorial candidate in the ‘80s. She was a very accomplished woman who encouraged people, including me, to go beyond what we think we’re capable of doing and think outside the box, so that we can impact all possibilities that can effect change.
Whom do you hope to inspire?
Our clients – everyone who walks through the door at Center for People in Need and asks for help. We need to empower our participants to reach their potential so they can build a better life for themselves and their families.
What does leadership mean to you?
Being a voice for low-income people in our community. Being an advocate for social and political change to help eradicate poverty. Having a voice and vision that can influence others and help them understand the challenges people living in poverty face every day.
What is your favorite quote or motto? “Nobody’s perfect.”
How would you describe a great day at work? When I’ve made a significant difference in the life of someone who came through our doors looking for help. Finding them a job. Finding shelter for a family or individual facing homelessness. Providing food to feed a family in need.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, and who gave it to you?
Tim Becker, chief of staff to Ben Nelson during both his tenure as governor and in the Senate, recommended I contact Senator Nelson to get help building out the second half of our facility. Senator Nelson was instrumental in getting a $1 million federal earmark for the Center to complete the interior construction of over 40,000 square feet. This provided us with much-needed space for a conference center, computer lab, classrooms, training areas and offices, allowing us to greatly expand our services to our low-income clients.
What’s the highlight of your career (so far)?
Creating our annual survey of the low-income families we serve, which gives us the data needed to publish our “Faces of Poverty” report each year. We present this report as a way to examine, at a glance, the many ways poverty negatively impacts our low-income community. The survey contains data collected from our clients during our Toyland for Kids event every December. Their responses highlight the successes and drawbacks, challenges and opportunities that low-income people deal with daily. We elaborate on persistent issues surrounding poverty: education, hunger, transportation, health care and more. With the Faces of Poverty report, we hope to inform the policies, decisions and programs of those joining us in the fight to contain and eliminate poverty in all its forms.
How have you changed over the course of your career?
Mostly in the way I envision how I can help toward the huge goal of eradicating poverty. We started the Center for People in Need with a very narrow mission. We provided household goods and clothing to people in need. Our Truckloads of Help program now distributes 300 tons of new merchandise annually, at no cost to our low-income clients. While building this program, I became aware of how much broader the focus needs to be to help people succeed and defeat poverty. I realized that one answer doesn’t fit everyone’s needs. We need to learn about their goals and motivation to know how best to help. Today, the Center offers a much wider range of services including food distribution, English as a Second Language classes, job training, help with advanced educational opportunities, and case management to assist clients with emergency needs. And we are constantly looking for more ways to serve.