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McKenzie Robinson | SBJ

2021 Most Influential Women: Kippie Kutz

The Kitchen Inc.

Posted online

Kippie Kutz has dedicated the past three decades to preventing and ending homelessness. The people she serves and the donors she connects with fuel her passion.

“My work has provided me with a sense of fulfillment and pride to know I’m making a difference, though small, in the Springfield community by helping those in need and working toward a community free of homelessness,” says Kutz, the director of major gifts for The Kitchen Inc.

One of the many jobs she’s held over her career at The Kitchen was the coordinator of resident and social services, with the primary duty of managing the nonprofit’s shelter at the Missouri Hotel. She says she’ll never forget how the children called the Missouri Hotel their home, and she made it her mission that the shelter lived up to that. The seemingly small touches meant so much, and Kutz recalls seeing “their little faces light up when they got off the school bus at ‘home.’”

“Not all the days were happy. Some were filled with fear, uncertainty and tears. Those days we dug deep into our souls to find the grit to continue,” she says. “I’m thankful I could be a part of the happiness and that I learned from the sadness. These were some of the best workdays and days of my life.”

Kutz occasionally sees the kids she once served, now with children of their own, and hearing their accomplishments “puts tears of joy in your eyes.”

She says those personal stories are critical as she raises funds for The Kitchen programming. She says the entire community benefits when the nonprofit provides shelter and supportive services to unsheltered and low-income residents.

In her fundraising role, Kutz helps secure the $4.1 million in annual revenue needed to run the 42-employee nonprofit. She also helps raise awareness in the community about people who are homeless or are at-risk – and educates the community about barriers and challenges faced by these populations.

Some of the fundraisers she organizes are Eyes in Disguise, The Knights Striking Out Bowl-a-thon and the Harter House Memorial.

Kutz says another professional focus is mentoring her co-workers and direct reports. She says as a leader, she’s there to provide motivation and to set an example.

“I try to find what makes my team tick and focus on that driving force to ensure their success,” she says. “I let the worker mold themselves as I help by providing support, encouragement, boundaries and trust.”

She says former colleagues are now CEOs, vice presidents and directors of nonprofits and businesses around town, and her influence has provided a wide connection to build partnerships for The Kitchen.

Last year was a big test for her and her team. When shutdown orders were announced, she says The Kitchen staff asked: “How do you shelter in place if you don’t have a home?”

Kutz says services moved virtual as operations at the nonprofit never quit. Nearly 700 people were housed by The Kitchen in 2020.

Though she’s proud the team has never stopped working during the COVID-19 pandemic, she does hope they’ll work themselves out of a job one day. Kutz says she shares the dream of nonprofit founder Sister Lorraine Biebel “to someday not open the doors, because the need no longer exists.”

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