I first met Nancy over 20 years ago, when Kidpower was a small, struggling, unknown organization.
Robert Stephens, who is one of our honorary trustees and who served with Nancy on the Santa Cruz County Community Foundation Board, introduced us at a gathering in their office, saying, “Nancy, this is Irene, and you really want to know more about Kidpower!”
I will never forget sitting together with Nancy a couple of weeks later at a shaky table in a little coffee shop in Aptos. She made me feel so safe that I was able to confess to her my total lack of confidence and competence in asking for help and in fundraising, which is a big liability for the executive director of a nonprofit organization. With a compassionate smile, Nancy said gently, “Don’t worry, Irene! You can do this – and your donors will become your friends!”
When I felt shy, she told me, “Irene, you need to speak as if what you have to say is the most important thing that everyone in the room needs to hear!” The messages she gave me over and over were that, “You are important. And Kidpower is important. And you deserve to have help.”
Through the time we spent together, Nancy and I found out we shared April 27 as our birthday – and became dear friends.
Once, she called me and said cheerfully, “I had trouble finding your phone number. Why isn’t Kidpower in the phone book?”
I explained sheepishly that I had been trying to save money by having a residential number instead of a business line.
In an affectionate, slightly indignant voice, Nancy said, “Irene! To be a credible organization, you need to act like one. It’s time for Kidpower to be listed as a business in the phone book!”
Or course, Nancy was right! And we did what she suggested – and it helped people to find us!
Another time, she said, “Irene, you are seriously underestimating the numbers of people that Kidpower has helped. You are only counting the people who you have taught directly. What about all the people who are using our articles and books? And writing to you by email for help? And being taught by people who YOU have taught?”
Of course, Nancy was right! And we did what she suggested – and suddenly the widespread global impact of our work became much more visible.
Nancy empowered me and others in Kidpower by teaching us how to ask not only for money, but for help – and to stop worrying that people would think we were asking for ourselves because we were really asking for support so we could teach children and other vulnerable people to be safe.
In addition to providing leadership, Nancy with the support of her husband Tom have constantly nurtured Kidpower through their generosity. At our first Board retreat many years ago in Colorado, I told the board how a couple of people in our instructor training program that year had become frustrated with another person at the training because he had eaten up all the strawberries. Without telling him to leave them some strawberries and without telling our training team about the problem, they decided that he was a bad person, which wasn’t fair or accurate. In addition to acknowledging the importance of direct communication, Nancy said indignantly, “Kidpower should NEVER run out of strawberries!” – and she and Tom have been donating wonderful Driscoll’s berries to our training programs ever since. Sometimes people come to us from places like rural parts of India where they have never seen or tasted strawberries, let alone such good ones.
Nancy became Vice President soon after she joined our board. She served as Kidpower Board President for over 7 years until she found out she had cancer. Even though her treatments, Nancy inspired all of us by staying involved, being very active on the Board, and continuing to provide encouragement, ideas, and support. She kept on reminding us to think bigger and to keep reaching out for help. Although she was struggling physically, Nancy stayed strong in spirit. She and Tom joined us at our Board retreat last summer, helping us to envision the future for Kidpower. Even when she was feeling too ill to talk, Nancy would email me notes, cheering me on to keep going with our work and reminding me, “What you are doing is important!”
I am only one of many people who Nancy helped to learn and grow in ways that have made and keeps making countless lives better. Many years ago, Nancy introduced me to former Watsonville Police Chief, Manny Solano, who has been advising and supporting Kidpower ever since. Manny is now in charge of a Police Academy in San Jose.
When I called to tell him about Nancy, Manny said, “My heart is broken to hear of Nancy’s passing. Twenty-five years ago, I was placed in charge of our newly formed community services unit. I met Nancy through our volunteer work with two small organizations that helped survivors of domestic violence. I felt entirely out of my element, attending board meetings and doing my best to adapt to this new environment. Nancy recognized this and took the time to familiarize me with everything from Robert’s Rules of Order to financial statements and gave me tips on how to make non-profit organizations successful. Nancy always thought of others first and never expected anything in return. She received joy by watching her pupils succeed. Yes I’m very sad to have lost our dear friend, but I take joy in having had the opportunity to join with Irene to tell Nancy how much we appreciate and love her. ”
The last time Manny and I saw Nancy was on August 27th in Watsonville when she came to the presentation of a check to Kidpower from the Watsonville Police Community Assistance Fund for our workshops with the YMCA. She and Manny and his wife and I had lunch together afterwards, enjoying being together and feeling as well as we did.
When we said good-bye, Nancy gave me a big hug and said, “I love you, honey! And I am so proud of Kidpower!”
Jennifer Turner-Davis has this to say about Nancy’s impact on her as one of our newer Kidpower Board member, “Through Nancy’s words and actions, she continues to inspire me to be a savvy AND compassionate businesswoman. Being on the Board with her, she often asked tough yet VERY important questions that helped me and us to grow as individuals and as an organization. With her bright mind and generous heart, Nancy led by example and that will stick with me forever.”
On behalf of everyone at Kidpower, I want to express our great sadness at Nancy’s passing and our great appreciation for her huge heart and incredible spirit. Though her leadership, commitment, and generosity, she truly helped Kidpower grow from a good idea to a great reality that has served over 4 million people around the world.
Like so many, I love Nancy and will miss having her here physically in this life – though I can feel her spirit with me as I write this.
And, Nancy’s deep commitment to loving kindness and well being will keep empowering and protecting – every child – every teen – every woman – every disabled person – every senior – EVERYONE – we have helped and will help through Kidpower.
To learn more about Nancy’s life, you can read her obituary at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/redding/obituary.aspx?pid=179570941
Finally, here is a wonderful poem that Tom sent to friends and family after Nancy’s passing called Blessing (For One Who Was Blessed) by David Whyte from his book Pilgrim.
May your palms be as good for blessing
now as when you lived and breathed,
may your voice still carry us as you used
to carry us when you filled a room
with laughter and we rode the tide
of your arriving shout.
May there be a way to bless from the place
you inhabit, may you extend your hands
and your old way of speaking from the horizon
where you live, and may you remember us
and bless us here, in this place, and in this time
in the lit room of our present imaginations
or in the reflected glass, lifted to you
or to one another, remembering you;
and wondering if you still remember us.
And as you have traveled the way before us,
may you bless us especially on the long road
that starts from these words, in our meetings
and in our partings, in our simple wish to find a way
and especially, in our visible and invisible arrivals.
And because we have still to cross the threshold
that you have passed and make the journey
that you have completed, and because
we do not know from where you bless or even
if you still can bless, we need those words of yours
and that voice of yours, and the merciful world
behind that voice, and your laughter and your hands
turned toward us, as strong and as good as they ever were.