Nonprofits are part of a community’s backbone, and Northwest Indiana is no exception. They fill all kinds of needs, medical, educational, career, financial, and more. What keeps many of those essential organizations running are their strong development departments, who do the fundraising and outreach necessary to keep a nonprofit going. Kacie Ensign, Development Director at Opportunity Enterprises Inc., could not be prouder to be filling the role she is in today.
Ensign is a Valparaiso native, born and raised in the heart of Porter County. After graduating from Valpo, she attended Indiana University in Bloomington, where she earned a degree in Apparel Merchandising. She moved back to the Region after finishing college, and entered the workforce through banking.
“Right after college I started working in banking at First National Bank, which became First Source Bank,” Ensign recalled. “I was a Trust Officer, so I worked with trusts, estates, and guardianships, all very much involved with the banking world.”
While she worked in banking, Ensign got her feet wet in nonprofit work and had an experience which led to a shift in career directions. As a member of the Young Leaders United group at United Way, she got to experience her community through a lens that focuses on philanthropy and volunteerism.
“As a part of the Young Leaders United group, I had toured Opportunity Enterprises,” said Ensign. “We took a tour and just learned a little bit about the mission. That tour really impacted me, I fell in love with their mission and thought it was such a great place, and a few years down the road there was a job opening. So, I was thrilled when I got the job, and really enjoyed working somewhere with such a strong mission focus.”
Opportunity Enterprises is a nonprofit with the mission to, “maximize self-sufficiency and enrich the quality of life for individuals with disabilities.” This includes all kinds of services, like providing or helping find a place to live, offering social opportunities, or career counseling. It’s a home, school, and a gathering place for people who need extra support, and Ensign’s responsibility is essentially keeping the lights on.
“It’s allowed me to have the privilege to get to know so many men and women with disabilities,” said Ensign. “It lets me know them on a more personal level, and get to hear their stories, their successes, and what the support of an organization like OE can do for their life. It’s just been such a great honor to get to know the people that we serve. ”
As the Development Director, every day is a busy one for Ensign. Fundraising, planning and organizing events, giving speeches and meeting donors all fall on her and her team’s shoulders.
“No two days are alike,” she laughed. “It can range from going and speaking in front of groups to share about our mission, to one on one meetings with donors interested in learning more. It can be event planning, both the details and the heavy lifting that go into setting up and tearing down after an event.”
Her love for nonprofit work and the appreciation for OE’s mission comes not only from her work. She also credits her parents and family.
“I think my family, being very local, has always been very committed and engaged,” said Ensign. “My parents, whenever anyone was in need, would never hesitate to jump in and help out. Having those role models growing up really helped me along the path of recognizing that when you live in a community, it’s part of your responsibilities to see that all community members are taken care of.”
All of her work means that she is deeply tied not only to the community at OE, but all of Valparaiso and Porter County. It’s a city that she’s only grown to love more and more through her work, but more personally perhaps, through starting and raising a family.
“I think as a parent, I now have such a different perspective on Valpo,” said Ensign. “I just really appreciate all that we have to do here. We love the downtown area, and that there are so many activities for our kids to get involved in from local parks and programs. If [our kids] have a desire to participate in something, I feel like the options are limitless.”