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Community leader works to get nonprofit off the ground

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Local NAACP leader and community activist Kai Sutton has a new venture in the works: a nonprofit.

Speaking at Springfield Business Journal's 12 People You Need to Know live interview event yesterday, Sutton said her goal is to get Victori-us Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit, fully off the ground this summer. The interview with SBJ Editorial Vice President Eric Olson was held at The Backlot, Alamo Drafthouse Springfield's restaurant and bar.

Sutton said Victori-us follows an emergency needs-based format to help community members in need. For example, it kicked off with a fundraising drive held in December 2022 that provided Christmas toys for 30 families.

"It's so hard to ask for help. It's really hard trying to do it all by yourself," she said. "It's confidential through Victori-us."

The idea for the nonprofit came in 2018, when Sutton’s fifth child, Victori, was born prematurely and weighed less than 3 pounds. While Victori remained in intensive care and experienced health setbacks, Sutton said she received a lot of community support without having asked.

"The way the community treated me ... I'm forever indebted," Sutton said. "I'll just never forget that."

Sutton is no stranger to giving back. In addition to her new nonprofit, she serves as president of the Springfield NAACP and organizes the Stand Up & Speak Out walk to bring awareness to domestic violence. She's also a board member of Harmony House, which provides shelter and support services to domestic violence survivors.

Sutton, who acknowledged she is a survivor of domestic violence, helped found the Stand Up & Speak Out movement after her best friend’s mother was killed by her abuser. Sutton brought the walk to Springfield in 2012.

"Experience taught me that death is a result of domestic violence," she said, noting Stand Up & Speak Out is held in October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. "Domestic violence is real. You can't take it for granted. It affects real people every day."

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