ONTARIO — The first thing Kathie Molder Collins has done when arriving at work for the past nine years is pick up any trash visible to her as she heads from her car into the Relief Nursery. Over the years, she estimates she has picked up 1,000 pieces as well as hauled more than 100 boxes of donations and fundraiser supplies, created as many fliers and posters, written twice as many thank-you notes, and learned more about the management of facilities, human resources, and nonprofit finances than she could have imagined. In recent weeks one of her tasks has been to add a new code into the building’s keyless entry panel – a code for the newly hired executive director, Lori Harrison.
Harrison, an Ontario native, took the reins of Treasure Valley Children’s Relief Nursery July 1, at the start of the fiscal year. She comes to the child abuse prevention program from the Four Rivers Cultural Center as its event manager, where she first became familiar with 501(3)(c) nonprofit organizations. It was there, Harrison said, she realized she wanted to continue in this type of work.
“I grew up in a family of educators, people who cared about other people, and gave everything they could to help others,” Harrison said. “I love this community, have lived here most of my life, and feel blessed that you can reach out in a time of need to people for a helping hand, or can donate or volunteer to make a difference; people in this community are very generous, supportive and kind as a whole.”
The Ontario High School graduate said she moved out of the area for over six years. Being away made her realize what a great citizenry Ontario had.
“You don’t realize how lucky you are to live in a community like this, until you leave it,” she said. After high school, Harrison graduated from Treasure Valley Community College and worked in a variety of positions which today, mean she has a breadth of experience in the local community. Former employers include the Ontario School District, The Argus Observer, and Malheur County Sheriff’s Office. Harrison said she found herself working with children, the general public and people from all walks of life, with each giving her experience in managing people and building rapport. While she truly enjoyed working at the cultural center, she was looking for a certain career, she said, and at TVCRN she has found it.
“Our mission is to prevent child abuse and neglect by strengthening at-risk families through proven interventions, and the work combines compassion and early education,” Harrison said, adding, “I don’t want to see any more people who I care about suffer, and together, we all can make a difference at the Relief Nursery.”
Harrison added that she has a supportive board, a hardworking staff, and beautiful children in the Nursery. She has a son and daughter-in-law, Troy and Aubrey Henricks of Vancouver, Washington, a daughter, Kami Henricks, of Ontario, and three step-children: Cody and Caleb Leavitt, and Makayla Eckhart, all of Fruitland.
“I’ve looked forward to going to work every day here,” she said, admitting, however, she loves watching a good football game.
Collins is stepping down to return to consulting which will give her the flexibility to spend more time with three generations of family. She wants to be able to spend more time watching grandchildren, helping her elderly in-laws when they need it, and hanging out with her husband of 26 years.
“I truly love the Relief Nursery model and the staff and board members with whom I’ve worked,” Collins said. “I just can’t keep up those hours as a member of the sandwich generation, but I know that the Nursery is in good hands and that Lori will take the program even farther.”
Most community members may recognize TVCRN as a nonprofit that asks for donations, but they may not realize the financial difference the Relief Nursery makes in the community. While Collins would solicit for financial gifts from individuals or ask businesses to sponsor events over the years, she wrote grants that now total just under $2 million – that’s money from outside coming into Malheur County.
“I am really proud the fact that a cash or in-kind gift of $100 or $500 is leveraged and turned into tens of thousands of dollars from private foundations each year,” Collins said. “But, I’m even more proud of the difference we’ve made in the lives of so many children and their families.”