Passionate, determined and with a heart full of love, Kirby Dobbs Floyd is making an impact on Memphis. A veteran of the nonprofit world, Kirby has been giving back to her community for almost 30 years. Supporting organizations such as the Palmer Home for Children and Young Life and founding Hutchison Serves, Kirby is inspiring others to make a difference and helping people in any way she can. It is our honor to introduce you to today’s FACE of Memphis, Kirby Dobbs Floyd.
What causes are dear to your heart, and what has driven you to do so much to help our community?
Danny Thomas once said, “Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It’s what you do for others.” Through the lens of faith, I understood what this quote meant at a young age. I have been in the not-for-profit world for almost 30 years now, and I am hooked. Giving provides a satisfaction and joy that is hard to explain. I find I always get so much more back through giving.
We all should give out of our abundance. Beyond just donations, everyone has talents and gifts to offer. It could be as simple as a smile or a word of encouragement. We need to look around us, find need and then focus on how best we can help others. Most near and dear to me are causes related to people who, through no fault of their own, have been wounded by circumstances or who are looking to find their way.
You are involved with Palmer Home for Children. Can you tell us about this special place and why you choose to help these children?
Many of the children at Palmer Home have come from unspeakable trauma and abuse. To know what these children have gone through in their early lives is absolutely heartbreaking. During my work as a house parent, I came to understand how unconditional love can heal and change the trajectory of a wounded child’s life. Palmer Home is a place that will literally wrap its arms around these precious little ones to give them a place to call home where they can learn and grow. They are raised by a set of house parents who love them as if they were their own. They provide all levels of care, therapy and counseling, including tutors for education and a safe environment to participate in sports and recreation.
What inspired you to fund the Hutchison Serves program at your alma mater?
When our daughter Haley was young, she had cancer. She lost a kidney and endured a lot of suffering during chemotherapy. Her time at St. Jude left her with an extraordinary desire to give back. She is so amazing. One day, not long after her treatment was over at around age 3, she asked Glenn and I to help her bake cookies. It had already been a long day and we were tired, but once we realized that she wanted to sell the cookies at the front gate to our neighborhood to raise money for St. Jude, we baked cookies — lots and lots of cookies! She was right, and it worked.
Most kids have a natural desire to give back to others, and often they have great ideas. What they need is help and guidance to turn their ideas into reality. So it was my daughter who inspired me to start Hutchison Serves.
I realized that a program like Hutchison Serves could teach kids from a young age how to look for and notice the needs of those around them; think of ideas to solve those needs; then use leadership, servanthood and business skills to solve problems and better the world. If we teach this to young people early, they will carry this skill into adulthood and make philanthropy a part of their lives.
You are also involved in other teen organizations like Young Life. Tell us about this interest in helping the youth of Memphis.
Young Life leaders believed in me and showed me that I had worth, meaning and purpose at an age when we all doubt ourselves. My life was so transformed by this incredible group of folks that I chose to go on Young Life staff for 16 years.
Most children do not have the opportunity to experience this type of organization and will compromise their beliefs to fit in with any group that accepts them. Young Life teaches kids there is a great plan in store for their life and that they are already unconditionally loved and valued. At such a challenging time in life, it is a relief to learn that our struggles are not just our own, but can be shared with a God who knows us, forgives us and loves us more than we can comprehend. Each summer, Young Life camps host over 100,000 kids. Young Life camping is open to kids who often are overlooked: those from economically depressed communities, kids with disabilities and teenage mothers. This organization is powerful and character-shaping, and I am forever grateful for the impact it had on me. I want all teens to know the kind of love and support that I was shown.
What has been the most exciting part of your role as a community leader? What has been the most challenging?
The most exciting part is I get to play a small role in advancing local programs that help so many. It is such a privilege to witness true life-changing miracles.
The most challenging role is being able to educate others about these programs in a way that everyone understands and that invokes action. Getting someone fired up for a good cause can be challenging, but there is great personal reward in knowing that I am helping get more people involved in local giving opportunities.
Describe your typical day.
There is no typical day for a mom. Every day brings its own challenges to be solved before I can begin my work. With four very young girls, you can only imagine how exhausting and rewarding every day is for me. While the kids are at school, I use that time for meetings and working on projects.
What are your top three words of advice on making a difference?
First, believe that you can make a difference.
Second, let your heart lead you to a cause that tugs at it.
Finally, have the courage to make the call and ask how you can help.
If you could go back 10 years, what advice would you give yourself?
You are stronger than you think and more capable than you believe. Get to work. You can make a difference.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I cherish and love being a mom more than anything. My kids inspire me every day.
With the exception of faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Reading a transformative book in a hot bath, music and laughter.
Thank you to Micki Martin for today’s beautiful photos of Kirby.
Meet more amazing Memphis women in our FACES archives. Click here, and prepare to be inspired!