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Lindsey Neddenriep, 29
Public Relations Manager at Ozarks Food Harvest
ï¡¿Ozarks Food Harvest (OFH) has, arguably, had more success than any 417-land nonprofit over the last several years. And a lot of that success is thanks to public relations maven Lindsey Neddenriep. An employee at OFH since 2006, Neddenriep helped the nonprofit grow from two to eight full-time employees and from 5 million to more than 15 million pounds of food delivered annually, and she has aided OFH’s transition to being a granting agency. (OFH and corporate partners give about $300,000 annually to partner food pantries.) She also helped OFH reach its $5 million capital campaign goal, which led to the O’Reilly Center for Hunger Relief and rapid expansion of operations.
Additionally, she coordinates high-profile events for the company, including Check Out Hunger and Cans for Coffee. She was the spokesperson to national news sources following the Joplin tornado in 2011, but it’s her relationship with 417-land media that Neddenriep enjoys the most. “I feel lucky that local media can call me up when they need news,” she says. “It’s taken time to establish those relationships, and it’s a good feeling.”
Occupation: Public Relations Manager, Ozarks Food Harvest
Education: Communication–Public Relations & Human Resource Management/Industrial Relations from Missouri State University
1. How did you end up at your current job/profession?
I’ve always wanted a career that allowed me to write, be creative, and connect with people, and I find all of this in public relations. I am lucky enough to do this for a living, while helping thousands of people. In college, I accepted a development internship at Ozarks Food Harvest and have been around for a total of seven years. It would actually be eight, but I took a job at an ad agency. I ultimately missed nonprofit work and apparently it missed me too, because I’ve been back at the regional food bank ever since.
2. Where do you find passion to do what you do?
People. I worked in a nursing home in high school, and it was there I truly learned that helping take care of our most vulnerable citizens is one of the best things for your soul. When I talk with volunteers and leaders at Ozarks Food Harvest’s member food pantries, it’s obvious they’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure their community’s children won’t go to bed hungry that night. And hearing from those children and their families is where I find the passion to work in the nonprofit world. I recently talked with a single parent, a veteran, who is a school cook. She was struggling to make ends meet and had never asked for food pantry assistance before. She was embarrassed and her daughter was mortified, but they swallowed their pride, so they wouldn’t have to skip meals until pay day. I am inspired by these real stories.
3. Tell us about your family.
I am not married, and my siblings may have had enough kids for me. My brother, five and my sister, two.
4. What are your hobbies (when you’re not working)?
I love searching for flea market treasures, dining at my favorite breakfast spots (and anywhere that throws rolls at you the size of your face), listening to music—especially John Fullbright, the Turnpike Troubadours, and Shovels and Rope, floating down our beautiful rivers, watching Walking Dead, and catching up on my favorite blogs. And believe it or not, pre-Pinterest, I was a crafter. I enjoy painting and making things. It’s probably the 4-H child in me.
5. Are you involved in any charitable organizations? (If so, what are they, and what is your role? Why is it important to you?)
I’m lucky enough to be employed by a charity, especially one that is a partner of 200 nonprofits and programs, so I get to be involved in several. Our Mobile Food Pantry direct-service program is important to me as it was established to help reach underserved communities in the Ozarks. It was also sponsored by Rotary, which is how I learned of Rotaract. Through Rotaract, I volunteer with Great Circle and our club fundraises for the organization year-round. I enjoy volunteering with Convoy of Hope. It’s fun to see how a warehouse even bigger than ours operates! I was also one of about 20 local leaders who served on the Springfield News-Leader’s Every Child Project, helping to educate and advise journalists on critical issues facing children. This ultimately led to the Every Child Promise strategic community plan to give every child the opportunity to enter our schools ready to learn. I’m also serving on a Community Foundation of the Ozarks grant committee.
6. Are you a member of any professional organizations? (If so, what are they, and what is your role?)
I am a Rotarian, serving my local Rotaract Club as president this year. Last year, I chaired the annual city-wide Rotary event, and this year I poured my heart and soul into our new website. I’m also a Rock’n Ribs board member and a Tri-Sigma alumnae. Working at one of the six food banks in Missouri, we are part of the Missouri Food Bank Association and also the national food bank network, Feeding America.
7. How would you define the secret to success?
The key to success is to be of value and help others succeed. I believe in building strong relationships, working my absolute hardest, staying motivated, taking risks and expressing myself creatively as much as possible. Failure is also part of success. I was raised to learn from my mistakes and that tomorrow is always a new day.
8. What's your favorite thing about your career?
Feeling like I’m making a difference makes my heart full. I think people notice when you love your job! I admire the people I work with—including our media friends who help us spread the word when we need help—and our network pantries, many of which are completely volunteer-led! Every day is different. I’m constantly presented with challenges and change, which helps me grow.
9. What's your favorite thing about working in 417-land?
The vision of our community! Our children are our future, and we’ve recognized that we need to invest more in early childhood issues. I’m proud of our strategic plans to address problems, many of which involve poverty, and I have faith that all of us will step up and actively participate to ensure these goals are met.
10. If you could go back and give the high school version of yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Make the decision to go to college out-of-state sooner, so you don’t throw away so many scholarships! Also, don’t cut your hair.
11. What was your “dream job” at age 5?
Those close to me tell me I wanted to be “the boss.” When I was little, I remember wanting to be the editor of Better Homes and Gardens. I idolized my grandma, an amazing writer, who also gets credit for my over-the-top cleanliness and organization.
12. List three traits that define a successful career:
Drive, big hair, and sense of humor.
13. Why are you a 20 under 30?
Hard work is in my rural-Nebraska-girl blood. Growing up, I was the president of Girl Scouts, 4-H, FBLA, the school newspaper editor...if it sounds even a bit nerdy, I’m usually all over it. Also, I work for one of the top food banks in the United States. If you live here and didn’t know that, call me for a visit! And three, I believe if you fear something, it’s probably a good thing to try. I’m grateful for my experience as Rotaract president.
14. What projects do you have on the horizon at your job that you’re excited about?
This year I’m most excited to work on a new website that showcases our 30-year history, updated logo, and new videos. Meanwhile, we’re continuing to grant thousands of dollars to dozens of partner hunger-relief organizations and we’re on pace to distribute the most pounds of food in our history. It requires involvement from everyone in our organization—and community—to ultimately help solve the issue of hunger in our region. I’m also excited about Rock’n Ribs this year, which supports several local children’s charities. We’ll see you at the fairgrounds May 9 and 10 for the 15th annual event!
15. What completed project are you most proud of?
I am proud to have helped fundraise for and publicize a $5 million capital campaign to build a larger, more efficient regional food bank, the O’Reilly Center for Hunger Relief.
Since we’ve been in our new facility, I’ve written a federal grant which earned more than $100,000 for much-needed warehouse equipment. We were one of 20 (of 200) U.S. food banks to receive the award! I also helped secure two separate $100,000 gifts from Walmart, and one was through a voting campaign, which required much promotion and earned state-wide media attention. We were one of just five nonprofit finalists in the entire state. Through two of the annual events I coordinate, I’ve helped raise more than $1 million in my years at Ozarks Food Harvest.
Fill in the following blanks with five words or less:
Love, purpose, and good music make life worth living.
A day at work wouldn't be complete without laughing with co-workers!
Ten years from now, I hope I'm witnessing lower food insecurity rates.
If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would buy land and feed people.
The best part about being a 20 under 30 is feeling grateful for life’s blessings.