On January 29th, GVSU PRSSA focused their meeting on the non-profit sector of public relations. In order for members to gain a full understanding of all that non-profit PR has to offer, Ashley Abbott the Fund Development and Community Outreach Coordinator of Kids Food Basket was a guest speaker. Instead of giving a dry, straight forward definition of what she did, Abbott communicated her love of non-profit PR through an inspirational story that showed how the ups and downs in life can greatly affect and guide your passion.

Abbott’s story began as a child being raised by a single parent. Financially, Abbott’s family struggled, but her motherdecided she wanted a better life for herself and her children. She decided it was time to go back to school. However, going back to school is a process and an expensive one at that, so Abbott and her sister still had to struggle through their younger years. 
As Abbott grew up she became a social butterfly. This was especially useful to her because school wasn’t her thing. While her friends began to plan their lives Abbott still had no idea what she was going to do. She did decide to go to college at Ferris State University. Her first semester, Abbott struggled; she couldn’t decide what she wanted to do. She kept going back and forth between teaching and marketing several times. She recalled a time that her mother had mentioned she would be good at public relations. At the time, Abbott was certain this wasn’t the road for her, but she wasn’t sure what was. In an attempt to get some direction Abbott met with Kelly Rossman-McKinney.

Kelly sat down with Abbott and asked the hard questions. Through this, Abbott realized her mother had been right all along, public relations was a perfect for her. Abbott went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in public relations, graduating from college in 2008 with outstanding grades. Unfortunately, this was a time when finding a job was very difficult and Abbott struggled. She would have to walk to the library to apply for jobs because gas was too expensive. Abbott didn’t hear from any of the places she applied to and was beginning to lose hope. Her mother encouraged her to move home in order to save money. 

Two days after her mother proposed moving home, Abbott received a call for an interview with the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. This interview rejuvenated Abbott. Three weeks went by before Abbott would get a call asking her to come in again. Abbott couldn’t fathom what else they would want to know about her. She went in and was hired. 

Abbott was responsible for a number of different tasks while working at the Chamber of Commerce from event planning to helping with marketing and public relations. Through these jobs she met a lot of people and created many connections. She soon stumbled upon Kids Food Basket and realized she needed to work here. She felt an instant connection with her childhood. This organization provided people in poverty with nutritious lunches, something she could have used as a kid. Positions weren’t available, but that didn’t stop Abbott from being persistent and contacting Kids Food Basket for the next three years. 

Since Kids Food Basket didn’t have room for her, Abbott went on to work in corporate PR. She didn’t enjoy it though, so when Kids Food Basket called and offered her a job she took it in a heartbeat. It took three years for this opportunity to come her way; Abbott wasn’t going to let it slip through her fingers. 

She has been working at Kids Food Basket for two and a half years now. She looks back at her decision to leave corporate and has never regretted it, it is one of the best decisions she ever made. Working in non-profit allows you to teach yourself many skills that you wouldn’t learn in a corporate setting. However, non-profit isn’t for everyone. Abbott did point out there is a difference in lifestyles between corporate and non-profit. It all comes down to what you love to do and how you want to live because, “Money doesn’t matter when you love what you do.” 

– Stephanie Kotschevar
PRSSA Member