Kathy- From SHIM Employee to Board of Directors - SHIM

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Kathy- From SHIM Employee to Board of Directors

Kathy LipeckyWe are lucky to be surrounded by caring neighbors. Many of our supporters are connected to us in multiple ways. From volunteers who donate to clients who volunteer, we’re made up of neighbors helping neighbors. Our neighbor Kathy went from former SHIM employee to board member!

Kathy came to SHIM as our Family Engagement Specialist during the coronavirus pandemic. After seven years working in Duquesne University’s English as a Second Language department, she was drawn to the work SHIM does with immigrants and refugees and enjoyed her role connecting families to resources.

Born in Thailand, Kathy moved to Pittsburgh with her single mom in the 1990s when she was five years old. They didn’t know anyone, but her mother made the move with the intention of creating a better life for both herself and her daughter. Finding work was difficult for Kathy’s mom since she didn’t speak the language and had limited resources. She worked at a Thai restaurant that they could walk to, since language and transportation were barriers. Kathy remembers that there was no agency for assistance the same way SHIM exists today. There was no infrastructure guiding them as they tried to find an apartment, set up their utilities, and access transportation. Kathy started school without knowing English at a time when English as a Second Language programs didn’t exist. She remembers participating in reading support programs but struggled with English and reading for years.

“Language support is not just about giving people words. It’s so much deeper than that.”

Kathy is passionate about the work that SHIM’s family center does to support refugees and immigrants. She recognizes the value in SHIM’s wraparound services that address people’s entire situation, not just siloed challenges. Kathy knows from experience how language is just one part of the puzzle for resettled families in Pittsburgh. It can be frustrating for newly arrived individuals to navigate challenges in their new lives. Many people come with skills and knowledge that are challenging to apply in a new country. Kathy has met pizza deliverymen who held professions as surgeons and engineers in their home countries but had to find immediate work to support their families after moving to Pittsburgh. She wants people to realize that a lack of language does not indicate a lack of intelligence.

“A lot of times it’s so many layers- understanding language, culture, and the struggles they’re experiencing from losing part of their identity.”Kathy with women's group

Despite language barriers, Kathy’s mom started a food business with a food truck. She would park in front of Hillman Library at the University of Pittsburgh, where Kathy remembers going everyday after school. They sold chicken-on-a-stick and fried rice and enjoyed being part of a small community of ethnic food truck families. After years of hustling, Kathy’s mom opened Green Mango in Swissvale, one of the only Thai restaurants in the area. Since then, she expanded to several locations before settling in Monroeville, where she has been for the last ten years. In 2023, immigrants in Pittsburgh contributed $298 million in taxes and contributed 11% of its GDP. They also contributed $93.9 million to social security and $26.8 million to Medicare in 2019. Our foreign-born neighbors are a vital part of our city’s economic success.

When Kathy decided it was time to advance her career professionally, she knew that she wanted to continue helping people, joining Partner4Work as their Youth Program Manager. Kathy enjoys her current role there, selecting recipients for workforce development investments. She connects nonprofit agencies in Pittsburgh to funding opportunities that support tutoring, internships, career exploration, and training. Kathy loves helping marginalized communities and lifting up those who don’t have an advocate. She feels that she has a broader impact in her current role at Partner4Work guiding financial support to agencies providing indirect services, helping them to do their jobs better.

After leaving her role at SHIM, Kathy wanted to stay connected, so she reached out to SHIM’s leadership team and volunteered to serve on the board of directors. She had experience as a board member of Scott Township Library, where she was president during the coronavirus pandemic, and her local chapter of Three Rivers TESOL, where she was also president. After her 10 months on SHIM’s board, she is continuing to learn the important role the board has in SHIM’s strategic direction. Kathy is part of the development subcommittee and is helping to shape board involvement through activities such as retreats and ice breakers.

Kathy Lipecky and familyAs a mother of two young children, Kathy looks for ways to involve them in caring for their community. When she worked at Duquesne her kids would participate in extracurricular activities with English learners. At SHIM, they helped brainstorm ideas for family fun nights and loved attending picnics and events. Kathy is excited to continue advocating for the important work SHIM’s family center does for our community.

“The work there is life-changing for so many families.”

Learn more about the impact of our work.

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