A Closer Look: Deb Gore Ohrn
Community development director, Youth Emergency Shelter & Services
Friday, January 03, 2014 6:00 AM
Editor's note: Just after this article was published on Jan. 3, 2014, Ohrn left this position with Youth Emergency Shelter and Services to take a new job with United Way of Central Iowa as a Corporate Relations Manager.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism from Syracuse University; master’s in American women’s history from the University of Iowa
Family: Husband, Steve, and two cats, Huey and Lil’ Bud
In 2009, when Deb Gore Ohrn was still working as an editor-in-chief at Meredith Corp., she and a group of her co-workers decided to spend a day at the Youth Emergency Services & Shelter rather than have a holiday party. They spent the day with the kids, decorating cookies, making gingerbread houses, tying blankets and having gym races. It was an experience, Ohrn said, that changed her life. Now, four years later, Ohrn is the organization’s new community development director. After volunteering at the shelter for several years and serving on its board of directors, Ohrn is now responsible for spreading the word about YESS and its mission, in addition to seeing it through a $3.76 million capital campaign to construct a two-story addition to the shelter located at 918 S.E. 11th St. The addition will nearly double the number of beds available for displaced children.
Tell us about yourself. Where did your career take you prior to YESS?
Most recently, I came from United Way of Central Iowa, where I was a loaned executive from Meredith for the past two seasons. Prior to that, I worked at Meredith for 18 years, and I left as the editor-in-chief of the Better Homes and Gardens craft group. Before Meredith, I worked at the State Historical Society editing a children’s history magazine and also worked in New York in educational publishing. In addition to that, I was involved early on with United Way.
Describe what this new role is like.
I’m the community development director, so it’s my job to raise money for the shelter -- for the programs we have and for our $3.76 million capital campaign. We are the biggest and oldest youth shelter in the state. We provide so many services to the kids, and it’s my job to tell their stories and introduce YESS to the people who will support us and become engaged. For every kid here, one is turned away. Our waiting list is that big.
Why do you feel this job is a good fit for you?
I feel like I know this place very well. I always felt, walking in, that YESS was a truly a safe place. I always left feeling so blessed and so happy to have those interactions with the kids. A majority of them haven’t done anything wrong, they just come from different situations, and what happens here is so important to them.
How have previous jobs prepared you for this role?
When you change jobs, you often say you’re starting a new chapter in your life. A friend of mine told me I was picking up a whole new book. I’ve had on-the-job training for this though. Everything from communication to media training I did through Meredith, while working with United Way was terrific preparation for what it was like to go out into the community, tell a story and ask people for their support.
What’s a typical day look like for you?
I am learning database software, which, as an editor, is not natural for me - I have to wake up that left part of my brain. I will be going out and meeting with a lot of people one-on-one to spread the word about YESS and our campaign. Aside from that, I teach pop-up yoga to the girls here. Sometimes when they’re antsy, I’ll take my mat down, do some downward dogs and get the girls into their happy places. It’s such a great way for them to relax and just have fun.
What goals have you set for yourself?
That’s very clear and easy for me. I need to help raise the money so we can build the addition to our facility.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m currently editing a new magazine on modern quilting for a publisher in New York. I am also an avid knitter. Finally, I’m a certified yoga instructor, so I always go to classes when I can.
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