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Kathy Kaiden spent the majority of her professional career working for Young Parents Network, wearing many hats and officially holding the title of director of development.
After working for the organization for some 30 years, Kaiden retired in 2019.
The organization, which helps empower and support local parents in creating a brighter future for themselves and their families.
Over the years, she wrote hundreds of grant applications and raised millions of dollars.
Kaiden recalled that her getting hired at YPN came from she and her neighbor, who founded the organization, chatting away on a walk one morning.
“I had listened to her talk about her career many mornings and one time I said, ‘I would absolutely love to do something like what you are doing.’ And without skipping a beat she said, ‘Well, do you want a job?’
“She asked me to be a grant writer even though I had never written a grant in my life and had no idea how to do it.”
She went from doing part-time grant writing on a contract basis to being hired full time and running the annual Broadway Maybies fundraising event.
“My role really just grew and grew from there,” Kaiden recalled.
“And like with most nonprofits, I wore 7,000 different hats because we were a small team that worked really hard.”
Over the years, Kaiden helped with everything from marketing and accounting to payroll and anything that “somehow passed by my desk,” she said.
“And I loved the variety,” she said. “I just felt very blessed and lucky that I was able to tackle anything that they threw at me and that no day was the same. That’s kind of what makes me tick. And I always had bosses that believed in me.”
Her work wasn’t always roses.
“Fundraising is tough,” she noted. “It's a very stressful career, and I think you add human services on top of it, you’re dealing with some just challenging situations.
“It was not only an intellectual job, but it's also an emotional job when you see all these amazing young parents who just had really huge barriers and tough stuff to deal with. I would meet the most incredible young moms and dads and just be so impressed with their resilience and their wherewithal, and their willingness to do whatever it took to be these really good parents to their little ones and I just was so inspired.”
Kaiden said she loved getting to see the ways in which the community stepped up to support others.
“We are so lucky that there are corporations and individuals who are so incredibly generous. It’s a very vibrant, healthy, purpose-driven community and I feel fortunate for that, feel lucky to be a part of it.”
Kaiden admitted retirement was quite the transition. But she heeded advice she received from other retirees not to jump into any other commitments too quickly to fill up time, even turning down a few offers to join other not-for-profit boards because she didn’t want to get back into a role that would require fundraising again.
She has spent some time working on a grant review committee for the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, which she said she has enjoyed.
“I’m not sure what else I want to do, but I do want to be strategic on where I want to spend my time,” she said.
As for her career, Kaiden is confident she made her mark.
“I felt like I had done so many different things and I had done everything I could do at YPN … ,” she said. “It was a wonderful 30-plus years and I just adored it.”
Business 380 spotlights some of HER Magazine’s Women of Achievement, published by The Gazette. The awards were sponsored by Farmers State Bank.