Service in a Pandemic: Nancy Groszek, Site Director, Cincinnati, Ohio

Service in a Pandemic: Nancy Groszek, Site Director, Cincinnati, Ohio

Notre Dame AmeriCorps Members are lay people working to further the educational mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, both here and abroad. They serve in 24 cities and in Haiti and number more than 400 people. Their situations, as with most of us, have unexpectedly taken a turn due to the pandemic. Yet their work goes on. Over the next several weeks we’ll highlight some of their stories.

Nancy Groszek is instrumental in building the community around the Notre Dame AmeriCorps members. As the Cincinnati Service Area Director, she creates the space for the members to spend time together and for them to spend time with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. “I am grateful for the community we have in our Cincinnati cohort,” said Joe Kline, an AmeriCorps member currently serving at Education Matters as GED teacher.

On the orientation days in September, the group spent time getting to know the Sisters and their ministries. Last year, they visited Sister Judy Tensing at Venice on Vine, a restaurant in Over-the-Rhine, and Sister Thérèse DelGenio at Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen and Social Center, also in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati. Throughout the year, twice a month on a Friday, the team meets for professional and personal development. Sometimes the Sisters and sometimes the team from Dayton joins them. These meetings are important because it gives members the chance to share about their experience and what their service means to them, especially since their friends and family are not currently experiencing the same life of service; it is a chance for the members to support and encourage each other.

Usually, at this time of year, Nancy is busy with the recruiting process for the upcoming AmeriCorps year, which starts in September and ends in July of the following year. After ten years of working in this position, Nancy knows what she is looking for in a candidate, “Someone with a desire to serve, to be part of the greater good. They have to be someone who is looking to make a difference, where they see a need.” Another character she looks for is flexibility; within a non-profit, things are constantly changing, and an AmeriCorp member needs to be able to navigate that. Nancy is also looking for a communicator, who is willing to work together and to listen to the needs instead of implementing their own agenda.

Nancy Groszek walked into the office of Sister of Notre Dame de Namur Judi Clemens to apply for a member position. Instead, she walked out as an employee. This was in 2010. Today, Nancy manages the many Notre Dame AmeriCorp sites spread across Cincinnati and the region, and the almost 20 members who make the work possible. Sometimes the work is in a typical classroom, sometimes on a farm, sometimes deep in the mountains of Appalachia, but always the work comes back to the Sisters’ ministry of education.

“My greatest joy is when I see the growth in the AmeriCorps members,” Nancy says. “I love hearing them throughout their reflections, how much they have grown in communication, their ability to teach. The end of the year is that sweet, rewarding spot where I know they’re going to take the experience into their next step in life. It’s an honor to journey with them.”