Kathy Crosby: The Real Deal

kcphotoWe could have been at a cookout, a school function, really we could have been anywhere. As I sat across the table from one of West Michigan's most inspiring women leaders, I realized that she was trying to make me feel comfortable. Something I attempt to do in nearly every conversation I participate in, so it was interesting to be on the receiving end of that hospitality. I spent an hour with her, and during that time I felt like I was the only person in the room, and that she was totally focused on me. It was an incredibly empowering feeling.

Kathy Crosby is CEO and President of Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids. Leader of many, wife, mom and grandma to her growing family, and mentor to me. I first encountered Kathy at a YNPN (Young NonProfit Professionals Network) meeting, where she shared three tips for success to the group. Her forty-five minute talk made me cry right there at the table. They were tears of joy I realize now, her words providing me an affirmation that I wasn't alone in my feelings of wanting to make a difference in the world around me. And doing it while still being authentically me, and making money. Among her humorous and well told stories about how she ended up at the head of an organization employing hundreds of people, and who's mission statement is changing lives and communities through the power of work, she suggested that everyone find a mentor.

Afterwards, I asked if she would be my mentor. Thus the reason I was sitting across the table from her sharing lunch at Olive Garden and thinking how lucky I was, and how much I appreciated that she would carve out time in her busy schedule to talk with me.

Listening to Kathy tell stories of her growing up years it is obvious that she became the person she is today because she had an inspiring mother. Kathy tells stories about "Mama Tudy" and her job as a "nurse" in the state mental hospital. Think mental ward, shock therapy and then picture her mother becoming so invested in the potential of her patients that she brought them home to help rehab them back into society. Something like that had the power to go really wrong, instead it went so right it inspired Kathy to carry on in her mother's footsteps. Kathy has worked for the Goodwill mission for 30 + years. As a young girl she saw how the actions of one inspiring person could change the lives of many, and continues to use her faith in the Goodwill mission to change the world.

It makes me wonder how much better the world could be if we all recognized and invested in the "human power" that is all around us. What might be the potential of the collective power of everyone doing something good to move the world forward?

I thought Goodwill was just a place to drop off old clothes and items I didn't want or need anymore and actually felt guilty making someone else deal with my "junk". The retail store was only on my radar when we needed inexpensive clothes for Halloween costumes. Kathy explained what it means to be a self sustainable organization, and as a result I am not only a Goodwill supporter, I am a Goodwill believer. (I even shop there now. ) Visit Goodwill's website and you'll notice immediately that something is missing; they don't ask for money. Instead they ask for your unwanted items, because taking your "junk" employs people and turns lives around.

Meeting Kathy allowed me to glimpse the raw power that exists when a person finds their right place in life. So the goal to make my life matter is achievable, I just need to find the right organization, the right mission and the right message. Thank you Kathy for your generosity and inspiration. My life has been impacted by you, now let 's hope I can use what I've learned to make a difference in my corner of the world.