By Romi Carrell Wittman –
2018 Tucson Founders Award Honoree
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world – indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead said these words decades ago, yet they are as true as ever.
It’s safe to say that Nancy Kinerk, through her thoughtful and committed work, has changed the lives of thousands of Tucson children over the years. Through tireless fundraising and hands-on support, Kinerk has elevated dozens of local nonprofits – with the singular goal of making Tucson a better place.
For more than 40 years, Kinerk has taken on major leadership roles with a variety of nonprofits, many of which she continues to support today. “Nancy is willing to get down in the trenches and do the dirty work if necessary. Yes, she’s a joiner, but, more than that, she’s a doer,” said Linda Breck, who, along with Tucson Lifestyle Magazine’s Sue Giles, nominated Kinerk for the Greater Tucson Leadership Founders Award.
Kinerk has dedicated her life to her community and making it a better place. She’s demonstrated an unwavering commitment to education, children’s issues, health and wellness, and student life at the University of Arizona.
One organization near to Kinerk’s heart is Tu Nidito Children and Family Services, a nonprofit that assists children who are coping with the death of a family member. Anne Melko, who worked with Kinerk via the Marshall Foundation, said, “Her leadership founded and sustained Tu Nidito. Nancy went about changing the world by healing one broken family at a time.”
Kinerk and her family experienced tragedy in 1980, when her oldest child, Daniel, died in an accident. Rather than succumbing to sadness, Kinerk redoubled her commitment to helping others and making difference in the lives of children – from the very youngest to those reaching adulthood.
“Nancy has spent most of her life volunteering and assisting others,” said Louise Thomas, founding chairman of Angel Charity for Children. “She is a most giving and generous person who has experienced both the joys of life from her very large family as well as tragedies.”
In their nomination, Giles and Breck wrote, “Now is the time for her personal mission of service to be honored and observed.”
Kinerk was actively involved with the Children to Children nonprofit grief support agency and helped facilitate its merger with Tu Nidito in 1999. She currently serves on Tu Nidito’s board.
She’s also been very active with the Angel Charity for Children, serving as a charter member in 1982. In 1985, she helped raise $564,000 for two Tucson nonprofits and she remains involved today as a sustaining member.
Jose Luis and Adriana Rincon met Kinerk through Tu Nidito. “Her dedication and passion for Tu Nidito is truly admirable,” they wrote in a letter of support. “Her excitement is infectious and motivating for all of us around her. But perhaps Nancy’s biggest value is one which provides a very personal connection. We share the tragic experience of having lost a child. The strength, dignity and grace Nancy and her family have shown in the 38 years since losing their son has been a source of strength for our family, since we lost our son more than 10 years ago. We are lucky to have her in our lives and in our community.”
In addition to Tu Nidito, Kinerk has actively volunteered for and supported the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, Junior League of Tucson, United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona and Kino Learning Center, among many others.
Liz McCusker, executive director of Tu Nidito, said that Kinerk has directly impacted thousands of children and young adults in our community. She added that Kinerk’s work is often behind the scenes. “Nancy is involved in many organizations – like the University of Arizona Foundation, Casa de los Niños, Salpointe High School and many others,” she said. “She is most comfortable doing things without the need for attention –but because it’s the right thing to do.”