Abby Laine Sienkiewicz packed up and moved to Colorado Springs in hopes of steadily moving farther west. But almost eight years later — after a few new jobs and the purchase of a Westside home — she is proud call this her home. Sienkiewicz became program director for the locally-based Center for Nonprofit Excellence in January 2012 and is passionate about helping the organization reinforce the values of transparency, community and collaboration. The Detroit-area native took time to tell the Business Journal about the life she lives and the work she does in her new home at the foot of Pikes Peak.
Talk about your background in the nonprofit sector.
I went to school at the University of Western Michigan and have a background in family studies and in holistic health care. I’m deeply rooted in prevention, education, art therapy and health care. I also volunteered at a handful of nonprofits in college, so I think that all was instilled in me already. I ended up applying for a variety of Americorps fellowships all across the country after I graduated and got one here in Colorado Springs. When that was over, I met some folks out at La Foret and … then I went to work as the executive director of Future Self and was there for about 12 or 14 months before the board of directors decided to dissolve the organization.
I was talking to Dave Somers [the executive director of CNE] about what was going on at Future Self and he came back to me two weeks later and said “I want to grow the Center and have an opportunity to hire a program director.” Then two weeks later I accepted the position, and it’s awesome. Now I get to work with the entire nonprofit sector and not just little pockets of it.
What is CNE’s role in the Springs and what is your role at CNE?
The Center is really here to strengthen the entire nonprofit sector in southern Colorado. We do try to reach all of the southern part of the state but we are focused primarily on El Paso and Teller counties. We work to strengthen the sector through leadership and resource development, advocacy and collaboration: Those are our three big tenets. I currently work as program with a small staff … and we really work well as a team in doing a little bit of everything. Essentially, I manage the majority of our programs, developing curriculum and workshops. Another big thing that we do is produce the nonprofit directory and arrange our annual Nonprofit Day conference. So programs and events are my main focus, but I dabble in it all.
Can you tell me about your experience in the city’s YP community?
I think we have an awesome young professional community in Colorado Springs. I feel super-supported from all levels: colleagues, folks that I work with professionally, friends and stuff. I think that there are just pockets of amazing people everywhere. I never felt like I was lacking a support system, but I can definitely see the struggle for other young professionals in this community, and I don’t know what the actual answer is for that.
How do you feel that your values align with those of CNE?
Transparency is a big value of CNE’s, so we just lay it all out there. Integrity and honesty and all of those values that I think we all have as people definitely align, but especially transparency. People can always be more transparent, and I think that also aligns with my personal candor. Community and collaboration are also very important values of CNE. Community, especially downtown and on the Westside, is super important to me … and having that community and collaboration tie with CNE I think really relates to values that I’ve held my entire life.
Why did you and your husband decide to stay in the Springs?
It really goes back to the little community that we started finding here. None of our family lives here and we started finding a group of friends here that are now like our family. For me professionally, it was definitely where I wanted to be at that point. … I love the outdoors, I love the people that I work with and I also love driving five minutes and being in the mountains. There are just so many things that I think attracted us to Colorado Springs. We had visions to keep moving west, but this is our home, and I don’t want to be anywhere else for right now.