Leadership involvements lead to state award for Rice

Jackie Rice, director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Marion County and past chair of Leadership Marion County, was named 2009-10 Woman of the Year by Kansas Business and Professional Women at its annual state convention in early June in Manhattan.

Rice, who lives in Newton, is the first to receive the award established at the state level of the national organization.

?That was kind of neat,? Rice said about being the inaugural recipent.

Kansas/BPW recognized Rice for her years of service with Big Brothers Big Sisters and her long-time community volunteerism.

She has worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters Marion County for six years and also serves as director for BBBS of Harvey and McPherson counties.

?I?m a graduate of Leadership Marion County and past chairman, so I?m sure that played into the decision,? she said. ?I?m still on the board in an advisory capacity. I think they looked at my overall resume.

?Advocating is one of the things (the award judges) are looking for,? she added.

This past year, Rice was selected as Woman of the Year by the Newton chapter, where she?s a member.

Business and Professional Women promotes successful workplaces for women, their families and employers, according to its Web site.

?The organization puts focus on women?s issues and promotes education and leadership skills,? Rice added.

The selection process for the award began when the Newton BPW chapter asked Rice to submit an application in which she described her work and community involvement.

Rice said local chapter members initially kept the news secret about her winning the award.

?They tried to trick me into coming to the convention,? Rice said, who hadn?t planned to attend this year.

?I had some friends coming in from Oklahoma,? she said.

The week prior to the convention, Rice said she had received a letter from the state inviting her to the recognition banquet.

?I thought, ?Uh-oh, something?s going on here,?? she said. ?In the meantime, my friends changed their travel plans, so I sent the letter back and said I could come.?

Rice said when she arrived at the banquet, everyone was assuming she knew she had won.

Rice, a graduate of Newton High School, attended Hutchinson Community College and then completed a degree at Sidney?s Hairdressing College in Hutchinson. As a cosmetologist, Rice was active in the professional organization. She also has served as president of the Kansas Cosmetologist Association and was Kansas Cosmetologist of the Year.

?Then my family moved to South Carolina,? said Rice, whose two sons still live there.

She completed an anthropology degree at the University of South Carolina. While doing graduate studies in archeology at USC, she was involved with a preservation project with the Catawba Indian nation.

In 2004, Rice returned to Kansas.

?My mother still lives in Newton,? Rice said. ?And it was time for me to move back.?

Her mother, Dorothy Legee, operated Cunningham?s, a women?s clothing store in Newton, for many years. She and Rice?s sister Judy Kelly from Oklahoma also attended the Kansas/BPW recognition banquet.

During 2005, Rice participated in Leadership Marion County. She credits the program as enabling her to put into words her intuitive approach to community involvement?servant leadership.

?That frame has made me an advocate of Leadership Marion County,? said Rice, who served on the MLC board for three years.

Rice?s dedication to her current job is evident.

?Big Brothers Big Sisters has a great program in Marion County,? she said. ?Last year we served 188 children, and we are countywide…. The agency connects children who need a positive role model in their lives that opens a window to another way of living.?

Children may come from single-parent homes or families living under stressful conditions.

In Marion County, the largest program is Bigs in Schools, in which volunteers spend 30 minutes to an hour weekly with their ?little brothers? or ?little sisters??kindergarten through grade eight?at their schools.

?Then we have our traditional community based program, and we are consistently looking for new volunteers,? she said.

As director for BBBS agencies in three counties, Rice said each site maintains its identity and autonomy, so each county can be best served.

?Because my position is an administrative one, for the most part?I do some case management particularly here in Marion County?it reduced administrative costs for both agencies and put more money into direct services, which is what we?re all about,? Rice said.

Her staff totals seven among the three offices. Flexibility allows Rice to be where she?s needed most.

?I will be in all three offices in a given day,? she said.

As 2009-10 Woman of the Year by Kansas Business and Professional Women, Rice?s life story emulates her passion for people.

?I?ve walked kind of a winding road,? Rice said. ?But there is sort of a common theme?I?ve liked being involved.?

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