Kate Powers: Caring About Women Locally

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When Kate Powers finds herself at home peeking over a pile of leftover dishes or a load of laundry that needs folding, she doesn’t worry as some might. Instead she looks to an inspirational quote posted on her fridge. It reads, “Dishes will wait. Life won’t.” It’s a phrase Powers lives by. Sure her house may occasionally be in disarray, but it’s not something keeping her up at night when she knows she’s out helping the community every day. Powers, 34, is the president of the Junior League of Lansing, a women-run non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and families in the community. Becoming president of the organization was part of a trajectory for Powers, something that she’d been leading up to all her life — from Girl Scouts as a young girl to being in a sorority at her alma mater Michigan State University (MSU) and into her Junior League involvement. “I’ve been engaged in organizations helping girls and women to grow my entire life,” she said. “What’s really rewarding for me is developing and strengthening girls and women, making them really strong and dynamic parts of our world.” Junior League is a completely volunteer-driven organization. And they’re not just volunteers, Powers said. They’re exceptionally well-trained volunteers. The first six months of membership with Junior League is focused on training, and this training continues even as an active member. “The focus of our organization is developing the potential of women,” Powers said. “And we do that through training.” Through Junior League, Powers has had a lot of amazing opportunities. What she remains most thankful for is the opportunity to meet women in the community who she otherwise never would’ve known. “The number one thing that motivates me to continue moving forward is the membership,” she said. More than 400 members strong, Powers said Junior League is made up of some of the most amazing and dynamic people she has ever met in her life. “It’s really the reason I keep coming back, and the reason I continue having the energy to do this.” Before her seven-year involvement with Junior League, Powers worked with a statewide non-profit where she met her future sister-in-law, Julie Powers, who introduced Kate to her future husband, Jeff, who she married in 2003. Julie was also one of women who nominated Powers for the Capital Area Women’s LifeStyle Magazine’s Caring About Women Locally (CAWL) Award. Powers was honored as the CAWL Award winner during CAWLM’s second annual ‘80s Flashback Fundraiser event on Saturday, March 24. “I am completely humbled and shocked,” Powers said on receiving the award. “When I look at my role as president of Junior League, I’m not the one doing the heavy lifting. That’s our members and people engaged on the frontlines. In my mind, this award is not just my award; it’s everybody’s.” While those who nominated Powers believe she goes above and beyond, she sees it as simply a part of her everyday life. “My hope in winning this award is that I get an opportunity to share with the community,” she continued. “I want to share what Junior League is all about and the work we do to help families and children at risk.” And although her involvement in Junior League sounds like a full-time job, this is only one aspect of Powers’ life. She also serves as the associate director of development in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at MSU. It seems only fitting that Powers would find a career at MSU, a place she said was absolutely transformational for her during her undergrad years. “Given the opportunity to be on campus every single day — it was a no-brainer,” Powers said. “I have a strong love for the institution, so being able to focus my professional efforts there was just a fantastic opportunity.” Powers finds a way to link her work at MSU with her involvement in Junior League, as well. Lessons she learns in Junior League she can bring to her professional life and share it with the people there. “My Junior League experience has strengthened my knowledge within my job,” she said. What Powers loves best about her job is meeting people, like her, who love MSU. Her main job is finding alumni donors ready to give back, so she gets to meet giving, like-minded people. And the same goes for why she continues to enjoy her Junior League work. “I’m not sitting at a desk pushing papers in either of my roles. I get to be out there, meeting new people and engaging with people. I’m a people person.” As of May, Powers will step down in her role as president of Junior League and become a sustaining member — but her level of dedication will ever remain the same. She’s looking for ways to take her experience out into the community even more. She wants to become engaged in her 5-year-old son Joseph’s school. She would also like to get involved in Girl Scouts, an organization that has always been close to her heart. “I’m looking forward to weighing my options and seeing where my next volunteer opportunity will be,” she said. “As a sustaining member of Junior League, I won’t fade off into the distance. I’ll continue to find a way to keep engaged in my community.” Getting involved is something she encourages other women to do, as well. And for those looking to start volunteering, she of course notes Junior League as a great place to start. “The best way to give back is to find an area you’re passionate about,” she added. “Find a way to do it so you can engage every aspect of your life, so it doesn’t become a chore. There are so many ways to do that, and there is so much need. And the best way to combat need is for people to care.” Helping families and children through Junior League is a passion for Powers because family is everything to her. “I’m so grateful for the time and ability my family has given me to make this commitment,” Powers said. “A lot of the reason I did this was for them — to be an example to my son, but also because my husband is one of the most giving people I know. I just really wanted to exemplify what he does, as well.” Balancing family and work, however, doesn’t come easily. Making prioritizations is important to Powers. And in reference to that quote posted on her fridge, she noted how nobody’s giving out an award for the best housekeeper in Lansing. “I just figure out what my priorities are,” she said. “My family, work and volunteer commitments — (they’re) my food, water and air.”
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Tags: CAWL Award, Junior League of Lansing, Kate Powers