By Megan S. Willman
|Nikki Grizzle keeps everything in perfect balance between motherhood and managing Blessings in a Backpack.|
We expect schools to educate children, to help them to develop into responsible global citizens, and to offer them academic, athletic, and artistic opportunities. A growing number of children, however, rely on schools to provide their daily meals. What happens to the more than 16 million children in our country who go home to empty cupboards on the weekends? That’s where Blessings in a Backpack comes to the rescue.
Blessings in a Backpack began in Louisville in 2005 under the umbrella of Kentucky Harvest, incorporated in 2008, and is now a nationwide non-profit that eases weekend hunger by sending kids home with a backpack of food on Friday afternoons.
Nikki Grizzle joined Blessings in 2011 as the chief marketing officer and works from the Louisville offices in St. Matthews. The organization has seen incredible growth over the last eight years. “We began by serving 50 children at Roosevelt Perry Elementary in Louisville. Today we feed 90,000 kids in 48 states and Washington, D.C.” Although she is based in Louisville, Nikki is responsible for all national branding, social media, and marketing for Blessings. At present, there are 1,000 school programs in operation, and Nikki assists individuals in charge of marketing in their local communities.
|These students stand in line waiting to have their backpacks filled.|
Nikki is a busy parent to three young children (ages 6, 3½ , and 20 months) with her husband Josh, and she is also stepmom to a 14-year-old. She drives carpool, attends athletic and school events, and chairs a major school fundraiser at the Jewish Community of Louisville each year. I asked Nikki how she manages to get through a regular day, and she shared the “blessings” that she considers her secrets to success:
- A Great Boss. “Her philosophy is that we get the work done — from the office, from home, even from the car. That means I can drive the kids to school and to dance class on Wednesday nights. I even work from home on Fridays, an imperative so we have clean clothes.”
- Amazing Parents. “I’m very spoiled by my parents. They are on call for whatever is needed, and we couldn’t function without them. My dad used to say he just hoped to live long enough to see his grandchildren. I say, ‘Dad…here they are!’”
- A Partner in Crime. Until September 2015, Nikki was the marketing department. She met Robin Reuff, another pre-school mom who had a copywriting background and was looking for a career change. “I’m the last person to tell you where a comma goes. It’s a match made in Grammar Heaven, and Robin is a life-saver. We even dressed as Thelma and Louise for Halloween.” Nikki and Robin are looking for interns to hire in the next few months to expand their department further.
- A Pack of Volunteers. “These are the people who build our program by filling backpacks, sharing the kids’ stories, and advocating for the program.” There are 4,000 of them, and counting, in Louisville and Floyd County, Indiana.
- A Sense of Purpose. Nikki felt called to leave corporate marketing after her first child was born, even if it made some things more difficult. “Our life is insane and crazy, we’re always tight on money, but we want to teach our kids what’s important and to live by our values. The work has to be meaningful.”
- Appreciating the Chaos. “I hope the kids will realize one day I’ve tried to keep things balanced. I don’t want to live my life just getting through it. Our kids love each other. Our family is lucky.”