Getting to Know...
YES Board Vice President
YES Board Vice President Kellie Harry is an Iowa native who found her way to Nebraska for school and never left.
An attorney with Mutual of Omaha, wife to Bill (also an attorney) and a mother of two preteens and two active dogs, Kellie joined the YES board a few years ago and absolutely finds the mission to be moving and important in our community -- in any community.
Please join us in getting to know Kellie and what she finds most rewarding about her role as a member of the YES board.
What led you to become a board member for YES?
I became aware of YES through my service on the guild partnership board at the Women’s Center for Advancement and during Omaha Gives!, and was really pleased when an opportunity to join the board was brought to my attention by my employer, Mutual of Omaha.
How long have you been on the board? Are you on other community organization's boards?
I’ve served on the board since 2018. I’ve just recently completed my second term with the UNMC Chancellor’s Advisory Board, I was with the WCA Guild Board for 8 years and served as its President, I sit on the OneWorld Community Health Center Advisory Board, was part of Leadership Nebraska Class IX, and I have served for many years on the United Way Community Investment Review Team.
For decades, boards were largely made up of white men, but that continues to change. What does it mean to you to be part of that ongoing change, particularly at YES?
For many years, there was an expectation that governing boards were for men and volunteer guilds were for women, or that women first had to serve as volunteers to be considered for a board, if at all, while men were placed without this precursor.
While this issue persists to some extent, I think enough information is available to demonstrate that employers and boards are most successful when they drive diversity, and the tides are changing. I have seen this continue to evolve over the 20+ years that I have been volunteering, but must admit I would still like to see more male participation on the volunteer side.
YES was focused on increasing diversity before I joined, and is more mindful than ever to embed diversity, equity and inclusion best practices into its mission and strategies.
What about YES' mission speaks to you? What keeps you engaged/motivated to want to help?
The intentional desire to understand and address the needs of those experiencing youth homelessness really sets YES apart. It is an incredible community resource that helps support vulnerable individuals in finding their voice and their path.
YES works to fulfill its mission everyday with dedicated staff, volunteers, and executives that treat clients with acceptance, respect and dignity. Hearing success stories from those that work most closely with the clients in our Moment for Mission brings that experience to the forefront and is always very inspiring.
YES' board is 50-50 men/women and working to become more diverse. How important is that to you, particularly as board VP?
I think it’s key to the success of the board and YES as a whole to ensure different voices and perspectives are represented at every level. Research has repeatedly shown that Boards are most effective when they are diverse, inclusive and equity-focused. YES truly takes this effort to heart and continues to focus on ways to improve.
How long have you been with Mutual of Omaha? Was it important to you to work for an organization that gives back to the community and encourages employees to do the same?
I have been with Mutual of Omaha since 2008, and am currently an Associate General Counsel in Law Operations, managing litigation matters in a number of states. Not a day goes by at Mutual where the messages of community service aren’t acknowledged, promoted and demonstrated from the top down.
I think Mutual is unparalleled in how it embraces the commitment to charitable giving and community involvement. This really resonates in our culture and is part of what makes it a great place to work.
What would you say to other women (and men) who are considering becoming part of a volunteer board, especially for a nonprofit? What have you learned, where have you experienced growth, etc. from being part of YES' board?
There are so many things competing for our time and energy, and we often think we can’t fit one more thing into our day. However, I would encourage anyone interested in a particular cause to volunteer or serve in some capacity, as it takes your understanding and appreciation for the cause to a whole new level.
Board service provides the opportunity to collaborate with leadership and staff, help to direct strategy and spending, and if you have a specialized skill or expertise that could benefit to a nonprofit board’s work, that can be incredibly valuable. It’s also a powerful way to develop new skill sets and expand your peer and professional network. Like most things, you will get out of it what you put in.
If you won a million dollars, what would you do to help change the world?
It would be an incredible feeling to make such a substantial pledge to a passion project like YES. I also have a real soft spot for animals, so operating an animal sanctuary with my kids would be a distinct possibility. Obviously, the vast majority of us do not have an option of this level, but it doesn’t make our contributions any less impactful.
Every dollar matters, and every donor has the potential to be a lifelong supporter and champion of a cause they care about. It’s one of the reasons I’m in awe of the many generous individual donors, as well as the foundations and trusts, that are dedicated to serving and supporting our community.
Where do you see your opportunity to make the greatest impact/difference in the lives of homeless youth through your association with YES?
I hope that by remaining engaged and inquisitive, speaking out as an ambassador, and sharing the mission and vision of YES with personal and professional connections that I can help alert people to a problem that exists right in our own backyard and the programs specifically designed to address these concerns.
YES has been identifying, addressing and pivoting to the greatest needs of the area’s youth for over 45 years, and I believe YES is poised to make some incredible strides for the youth in our community, and potentially at a national level, in the coming years.