“Spirit of service, vision for partnerships,” could be Nancy Simmons’ six-word memoir – but that wouldn’t fully capture the essence of this Woman of Achievement.
Nancy was born and raised in Portland, Ore. At the age of 15, she made the courageous decision to emancipate from her troubled family. A year later, she dropped out of high school. She later earned her GED and has taken classes at both Clark College and Portland State University.
At the age of 22, Nancy experienced another life-altering event when she broke her back in a car accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down.
Just a few weeks before the accident, she had met a special man. As she describes it, “He really had to decide, ‘How much do I like this girl?’.” The answer: quite a lot.
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Nancy and Kim have been married for 25 years and have raised three children: Kyle, 24; Melissa, 21; and Keenan, 18. “Whether he’s piggybacking me to my favorite place – the top of Multnomah Falls – or just being my partner every day, Kim supports me in all that I do,” she said. “My kids have grown up to become amazing and giving individuals. Everyone has their own definition of success. Mine is defined by the closeness and successes of our family.”
Nancy’s foray into volunteer work was with the Lewis River Soccer Club. When her oldest son entered the soccer program, she joined the board as registrar, in part to learn about the community and relationships in Ridgefield, La Center and Woodland. “In Portland, people don’t know each other as much,” Nancy explained. “But out there, there are so many relationships – and I loved that – and I wanted to get to know the community.” This led to one of her most significant volunteer accomplishments – working on the fundraising and partnerships that led to the construction of the First Independent Bank Sports Complex at Ridgefield High School. To this day, she is involved in fundraising and support for Ridgefield athletic teams.
It was her skills in seeing partnership opportunities that led Nancy to the business world, first at the Clark College Foundation, where she worked on behalf of the annual golf tournament, the college’s alumni association, and the Penguin Athletic Club.
In June 2007, she joined the staff of Larch Corrections Center as community partnership program coordinator. In this role, Nancy works with offenders and their families. “In this position, she dedicates her professional efforts to ensure that appropriate reentry programming for offenders at Larch Corrections Center are created and implemented,” wrote one nominator. “Through her efforts, offenders are releasing to the community with stronger ties to their family and community.”
Nancy’s work, accomplished through creative partnerships and volunteer coordination, increases volunteer participation; expands community outreach; fosters relationships between offenders and their families; prepares offenders, their families and community members for reentry and transition; and provides opportunities for offenders to give back through fundraising efforts.
Nancy’s unique ability to see partnerships has also led to another accomplishment – not for herself, but for others. Nancy worked with two Larch Corrections offenders to translate the positive programming they’ve received in prison to college scholarship applications, resulting in them both receiving full tuition scholarships to Clark College.
While Nancy brings the vision of partnership opportunities to her work, she is quick to give the credit to others for their contributions. “Anybody can make a difference by volunteering,” she said. “Every skill set is needed. You do have something to offer, and you get more than you give. And I just love to see how, if we do something together, what we can accomplish grows exponentially.”