Looking Back 20 Years

This past July 1st,my husband and I woke early, packed our trusty Honda Fit with a beach umbrella and chairs, and headed to Emerald Isle for our annual beach vacation.  We both love that area and have rented more houses than you can shake a stick at! 

The beach is where I go to nourish body and soul and to completely relax.  (Every time I visit a North Carolina beach, I think about the N.C. Coastal Federation and am so grateful for the good work they do to preserve and protect this most amazing natural resource.)  My time at the beach gave me a chance to step back and reflect on the past 20 years.

Twenty years ago to the day, I began work at the N.C. Center for Nonprofits as its third employee.  I was very excited about the job.  I’d had experience with the Center’s counterparts in two other states and was intrigued by how a strong statewide network of nonprofits can learn, share, and advocate together.

I was also nervous.  Gardening the previous week had covered my arms with poison ivy (wish I’d known about this remedy then).  I was unsure how my new boss, Jane Kendall, would react. (She was most sympathetic and commiserated by sharing that she too had started a new job covered in the stuff!) 

I’ve grown leaps and bounds since then – as we all have!  North Carolina’s nonprofit sector has evolved, too.  Some things have changed.  Other things have not.  One very positive aspect of our sector today is that we know much more about what works – from research, as well as firsthand experience from nonprofit leaders working on the front lines.  Best practices abound, and those nonprofits that live and breathe them raise the bar for the entire nonprofit sector. 

What hasn’t changed is that the work of nonprofits continues to be vital and essential – and perhaps now more than ever.  One of the strengths of our sector is its diversity.  Let’s be sure that never changes.  The missions upheld by nonprofits are many and varied – causes ranging from animals and the arts to Zen Buddhism and zero tolerance.  They come in assorted sizes, too.  And, incredible, talented people lead these organizations day in and day out. 

I am proud of North Carolina’s nonprofit sector and thrilled that every day I witness amazing work in action.


Trisha Lester started at the Center as a program associate and was appointed as the vice president in 1999.


It's of no surprise that early on in your blog post, you mention (and support) a nonprofit. Quite indicative of the person you are - passionate and caring about our nonprofit sector. Thank you Trisha!

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