EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) — Some of us head to work each day, punch a time card, and leave. For others, our careers are a true life calling.
One Evansville woman stumbled upon her vocation, while volunteering as as teenager.
Now over 30 years later, her work is being recognized as one of our Remarkable Women.
Meet Michelle Kirk.
“The team that we’ve built is extraordinary,” said Executive Director of Sycamore Services Evansville Michelle Kirk. “People are driven by compassion.”
For Michelle Kirk, teamwork is the key to success.
“Being supportive and a mentor to people and being responsive and making people feel valued is what drives me,” said Kirk.
These attributes of a strong leader are something Michelle learned at a young age. When she was 18, her family moved from California to Evansville to be closer to her grandparents. She started volunteering for Special Olympics. The experience led to working at an area group home.
“For 4.25 an hour,” said Kirk. “Back when minimum wage was pretty low,” said Kirk.
After 15 years, Michelle transitioned to director of the Evansville location of Sycamore Services.
“We provide one on one support services to adults and children with developmental disabilities,” said Kirk. “We also provide services to those who are deaf and hard of hearing.”
Overseeing a staff of dozens, Michelle keeps an open door policy for all employees and clients.
“Never be afraid to take risks,” said Kirk. “Just be open to new ideas.”
This is a work philosophy colleague Lee All appreciates.
“She encourages all sorts of ideas that we can implement to make our clients lives much more independent and beneficial,” said All.
One idea was creating a 911 registry in Vanderburgh County.
“For people to be identified ahead of time should someone be dispatched to their home,” said Kirk. “So maybe they have a special need that needs to be considered prior to arriving. maybe the person is deaf.
Another was the deaf visor card.
“The idea is for them to hold it outside their window when they are being pulled over,” said Kirk.
Not only is Michelle dedicated to her career, but over the years she’s served on many committees in the community and has volunteered for mission trips to Appalachia. This service is something her son, Will, who is currently deployed, is most proud of about his mother.
“Improving the community overall,” said Will. “The amount of work she’s done for everybody. If I had to pick a favorite, that’s the favorite, how much she’s given back after all the hours she’s worked.”
As the pandemic continued, Michelle and her team hosted a virtual memorial service for a client who lost her life to COVID.
“To memorialize her and share stories,” said Kirk. “And we had some people in our program make some signs.”
Michelle hopes her nomination as a Remarkable Woman inspires other women in the community to pursue their passions and make a difference.
“Women especially need to understand that they are valued, and they have just as much value in the workplace and at home and in the community,” said Kirk.