For more than 45 years, I have been in the non-profit industry. Throughout those years, I hoped to grow kinder, humbler, and no less determined. I could tell you stories of all my mistakes and successes. Sometimes, I still feel the weight of what I could have done better. It is in my personality to take responsibility for my actions, and I can never let it go after.
More than 25 years ago, I met a Community Champion award winner, Kendra, and her success in life astonished me. Over the years, we would run into each other, and she was always thrilled to see me; but in those moments, I was too in awe of her, and I didn’t know why I was awestruck by her.
Kendra’s determination and passions for people with developmental disabilities and their direct support professionals are admirable. She’s impacted so many people’s lives through her work. She previously worked for Elwyn and now works with Conexio. Her determination and passion led her to run for elected office as a State Representative in the Delaware General Assembly. During her run, she’s led the way to groundbreaking legislation — the Michael McNesby Act — to fully fund services for the people we care so deeply for. She will not let go or take no for a final answer. She returned to legislation to make a point until it stuck.
Kendra is kind, thoughtful, and an amazingly successful advocate. Why, then, was she so glad to see me? She told me a story once of when she was a case manager and had to present her plans to me for a quality review. Immediately, I knew how deeply she loved and cared for her clients, and she said, “I got her.”
Maya Angelo was right; people may not remember what you said (exactly), but they will remember how you made them feel. So, it is good to be like Kendra, determined, passionate, and committed. I am grateful to have met her early in our careers, and help her sustain her focus and fuel her for the tough challenge she mastered.
At Community Champions in October, Kendra Johnson received the Advocacy Champion award.