Welcome back to the POP QUIZ! This is a regular, yet totally unexpected, feature where we ask students, parents, staff, our friends, and partners to answer a few questions about what they are learning, reading, and thinking about. Today we feature Kim Nemire who is director of development for Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo.
Ask Kim how she came to work with CIS in 2019 and she will start talking about walnuts.
Way before walnuts, though, she was preparing to crack open a career as a teacher. She had just graduated with her teaching certification from Michigan State University when a friend convinced her to move to New York City, “just for a year.” That year turned into four. As she had moved without a job in sight, she took on temp work. She did a stint as a receptionist, worked in advertising, and then worked in publishing with Simon & Schuster (focused on supporting author signing events).
And then, 9/11 happened. While getting ready to head to her downtown NYC office in the Woolworth Building, the first plane flew into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. For several months, she and her colleagues couldn’t access their building. When they finally returned, “it was awful … you couldn’t help but look down and see the pit and what was no longer there.” Once shaded by the neighboring towers, Kim felt the full presence of the sun, could still smell the lingering aroma of burning metal.
9/11 made her reassess her life. She started thinking more about her childhood and growing up on a farm in Mendon, Michigan. She realized she wanted to be closer to home and wanted to make a difference. “It set into motion a series of events that put me on a different path.”
It was a circuitous path that took her from the publishing and advertising world to supporting nonprofits in various ways, such as fundraising and event planning. She worked for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in Chicago and later CCS, a strategic fundraising consulting firm that supports nonprofits. (While with CCS, Kim worked at Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance which works to procure and equitably distribute vaccines throughout developing countries.) Kim also has worked on two major fundraising initiatives for The United Methodist Church. Oh, and along the way, she ran a farmer’s market, worked on an organic dairy farm and helped out on a goat farm.
Before the windy path led her to Kalamazoo, Michigan five years ago, she followed it all over the country and lived in places like Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Alright, Kim: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.
Since we had to tear you away from an upcoming event you are working on, let’s start by talking about it. Tell us about Walking With Purpose.
Last year, we did this on an informal basis with friends and family. This year, we secured four sponsors and are taking steps to make it annual event. I like Walking With Purpose because it shows the power of a lot of people. Our goal is to have a total of 40 teams walking 12,000 miles over the month of October. 12,000 miles seems like a lot until you do the math and realize that with 40 teams of 10 walkers, each team only needs to walk approximately 300 miles. It’s truly a team effort and we will all work together to reach our goal. We’re hoping to raise $40,000.
The goal, by the way, is symbolic of the 12,000 students at the schools supported by CIS. Each mile will have meaning because we’ll be walking in honor of students who are walking toward a brighter future. Our care and concern for them fuels our miles.
It’s quite a big goal to reach.
For one person, yes. Our mission includes bringing the resources of our community to support students. So enlisting many people in our community to pitch in miles and funding makes sense. Not one person is walking all that distance or raising the money by themselves. Together will we do it—together we surround students with support.
That message parallels nicely with the CIS mission.
It’s also an opportunity to be outside, to walk with and for a purpose, and walk together. Anyone can get involved, whether it’s sponsoring miles, walking, or signing up as a team captain. [If you would like to learn how you can become involved, go here.]
So how did you come to work with CIS?
Do you know the story about the walnuts?
We’ve moved to Kalamazoo and I’m working from home when I start hearing things one day. What the heck is that? I wondered. We live in a 140-year-old house that was built in 1876 or so and we’re always joking about ghosts.
Come to find out, it’s kids on the playground. They were tossing walnuts over the fence and it was hitting our house and car. Walnuts make quite a cracking sound when they hit your home! I contacted Woodward’s principal, Frank Rocco, who said he was really sorry about this and that he’d talk to the kids. He did, and we received the sweetest note and gift of a pumpkin (it was fall after all), from a student later that week. Somehow through the whole walnut incident I connected with [CIS Site Coordinator] Jen DeWaele. I got to know her and CIS and I was sold!
Walnuts did bring you to CIS!
And I’m nuts about CIS! I know that’s super cheesy, but it’s true! CIS brings all of my passions together. I’ve always had a heart for kids. Here, I can use my skills and experience as a fundraiser to benefit them. I like that it also brings my interest in education back in. As I was newer to Kalamazoo, I wanted to become embedded in the community. CIS helped with that. Now I can’t imagine working any other place.
It’s a place where you have transitioned from volunteer to major gifts to director of development. And at the beginning of the pandemic, you donned another hat and offered free yoga lessons to CIS staff and friends.
Yes, I did that for a full year. I started out offering it five, then three, then two days a week over Zoom. All in all, it was about 120 classes!
It helped me to start my day by doing something I love doing. And sharing it with others.
So you’ve been practicing yoga for a while now. And you also did yoga with goats, right?
I obtained my yoga teacher certification with Sangha Yoga Institute here in Kalamazoo. At some point, my friend Gretta invited me to teach some goat yoga classes at her farm in Pecatonica, Illinois. [Goat yoga involves goats wandering about during the class, nuzzling, and sometimes climbing on top of the students as they practice their poses. The goats have a calming effect and can complement yoga’s therapeutic benefits.] One unseasonably cold weekend, we had back-to-back goat yoga classes in my friend’s barn. It was fun, though I was shivering the entire time.
So what’s a hobby or interest we don’t know that you have?
I am on the race committee for the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run in Washington, D.C. I’d gotten involved in it when I lived there. The event is certified by the Council for Responsible Sport, and I work with a small volunteer team to make sure we get and stay certified each year. I like it because it’s about more than just the bottom line. It’s about being responsible in many ways, including reducing event waste and carbon footprint, supporting local organizations, and taking good care of the space we use. The staging area is the Washington Monument grounds, so leaving it beautiful is pretty important! There are more than 50 standards we meet to become certified.
Oh, and I like to garden, but we have no garden this year. I put lettuce in and it didn’t grow. Isn’t lettuce always supposed to grow?
What are you currently reading?
I like self-help and personal development books. I’ve been listening to books on Audible. Right now, I’m listening to Wayne Dyer’s book, How to Be a No-Limit Person.
What does it mean to be a ‘no-limit’ person?
It’s basically a mindset, similar to yoga. Classical yoga isn’t just about specific poses. There is a philosophy and way of life behind it. Being a ‘no limit’ person means your experiences don’t define you. Your trauma doesn’t define you. You have control over the way you show up in the world and respond to things.
What is your favorite word or phrase right now?
“Heck yah!” Heck, yah is fun to say and is energizing and encouraging. I’m trying to work that more into my repertoire, especially when people are sharing ideas or dreaming about a new way of doing something.
Heck, yah! You are right. It is fun to say. So what is a question you recently asked or perhaps have been asking a lot lately?
Did I—or did we—learn the lessons we were supposed to from Covid? Things slowed down and now there is such a rush again, it’s almost overwhelming. I had hoped we’d stay at an easier pace of life. But it feels as if we are right back there, and even more so.
Behind every successful adult is who is one of the caring adults in your life?
I had many teachers along the way who were so caring and wonderful. And my parents and grandparents. But if I can only pick one person, someone who comes immediately to mind is my Aunt Kathy. I remember her being there exactly when I needed her. My parents divorced when I was young and she used to stop by and check on us. She didn’t “pick a side” even though family dynamics might suggest that she should. She just stepped in to help in ways that she could. She even took us grocery shopping and things like that.
Your face lights up when you talk about her.
She is just the sweetest, most positive person ever. And while I know there were many other family members who helped us out, I think it is the way she shows up in the world that has had a lasting impact on me.
Thank you, Kim, for hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids.