One thing that has always impressed me most about my former neighbor Nancy Kennedy is that in addition to everything else she does, she is, and always has been, a wonderful cook. She produces a complete meal from her cozy kitchen almost every night and, having been a guest at her table on many occasions, I can say that every mouthful is delicious. I’ve asked her more than once, “Does your husband know how lucky he is?” (If he doesn’t, I hope he’s reading this now!) But Nancy is also a highly organized and super-efficient leader, who has spent most of her adult life working for non-profits, either as a volunteer, or an employee. She has been president of Stone Academy PTA, Council PTA, and ECW (Episcopal Church Women), and has worked in the schools and community in other volunteer positions. Prior to that, she worked for the American Red Cross, and now she is volunteer coordinator and office manager for OLLI at Furman University, her alma mater. Thanks Nancy for joining us today!
If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be? Don’t worry about most of the stuff your friends and classmates say about you. They are kids and they don’t know what they’re talking about.
Ha! J You’ve spent most of your career working for nonprofit agencies. How is this rewarding to you? It’s certainly not financially rewarding, but I am fortunate that my income is a supplemental one and not the one we rely on for groceries and mortgage payments.
The American Red Cross is a wonderful organization, and one that I was proud to represent as a spokesperson and fundraiser. Most people know the Red Cross responds to disasters, but many forget that we have ALL benefited from Red Cross programs through swimming lessons, being watched by a Red Cross-trained lifeguard, or knowing that our children are cared for at school by teachers who have completed Red Cross First Aid and CPR classes. I enjoyed educating the public about ALL of the Red Cross programs, and as a result raising funds to support those programs.
In April, 2011, after 13 years as a stay-at-home mom and community volunteer, I went back to work in a part-time position at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Furman University. While there’s no age requirement, members of OLLI at Furman are generally 55 and older and most are retired. They come to OLLI to take classes ranging from Latin to Woodcarving to Shakespeare to Genetics. There are no tests, no homework, and no papers. Most of the classes are taught by our members and all of our instructors teach for the joy of teaching because they are not paid for their efforts. In addition to classes, we have social events, tours, speakers, and special interest groups. Our program provides a way for seniors to continue to learn and also provides members the opportunity to stretch themselves further through volunteering, OLLI leadership, and teaching. I love my job for many reasons, but I think one of the best parts is that it is so nice to work in a place where everyone is happy to be there. It’s a joy to see our members enjoying their retirement years, learning new things, making new friends, volunteering together in the community, and supporting each other. (And working at my alma mater is a HUGE bonus!)
What skills are needed to work for OLLI? What is required of you so that the program is successful? My responsibilities include managing the office, managing our two college student workers, and working with membership, volunteers, and social events. I say I do the “fun stuff”—the extra things beyond classes that help enrich the OLLI experience. No two days are alike and many of our days are crazy busy, especially at the beginning of each term. We have around 1,000 members excited about coming back to “school,” and they come back with questions, they drop and add classes, new volunteers come in, and there is just a lot going on. Anyone who works in our office must be able to work through frequent interruptions. I don’t mind those a bit.
One of the main talents I employ at work is encouraging people to volunteer and helping them find the right volunteer job. This seems to be one of my biggest gifts; I’ve been successful in many different areas in recruiting volunteers and getting the most from them. I’ve had volunteers I’ve recruited for PTA, my kids’ swim team, and Sunday School teaching say that they can’t tell me no. That ability is one of the traits that helped me land this job. I wish I could tell you how I do it, but I’m really not sure why I’m more successful at recruiting volunteers. I know how I like to be treated when I volunteer, so I guess I try to treat others the same way.
Yes, I remember being recruited by you once for a PTA event. I couldn’t tell you no either! Work aside, what’s something you like to do that might be considered a little bit nerdy, but is actually really fun? I love puzzles—any kind. I enjoy doing all of the puzzles that are in the newspaper: Sudoku, crosswords, Jumble, Cryptoquote, and Scrabble. I always have a few Words with Friends games going. I love working on jigsaw puzzles, although I still haven’t forgiven my husband for his gift several years ago of a 2000-piece puzzle. It’s a beautiful scene from a coastal town in Italy, but it’s mostly sky and water, hence it’s all blue except for a tiny sliver of town. I still haven’t finished that one….
Like I said in the introduction, you are a wonderful cook! Tell us about something (a skill, a secret recipe, a tool) that contributes to your success in the kitchen. I do like to cook and reading cookbooks is one of my favorite things to do. (That sounds a bit nerdy, doesn’t it?) I’m lucky to have family (and friends!) who will try just about anything; that makes it even more fun. Several years ago we got a new stove. It’s dual fuel—it has a gas cooktop and an electric oven. I just adore it. Soon after, I received a very nice set of pots and pans for Christmas, and then treated myself to a really good set of knives. That was when I realized how important good tools are. I truly believe my cooking has improved immensely since I’ve had a gas cooktop, good pots, and a decent knife.
Thanks for sharing your tools of the kitchen and tools of the trade! OLLI is lucky to have you.
To find out more about OLLI, click HERE. There is an easy map at this site to help you find OLLI programs near you. I’ve been to a few here in Beaufort. Some OLLIs have age restrictions, but many are open to all ages. Check the site for more details.