Behind 40 Years of 'People Helping People': Kim Pierce's ATCAA Story
Story by: Tori Bors
Published: August 2, 2021
In an office painted dusky twilight filled with thriving plants, a woman with bright blue eyes tends to her outreach clients and case files with a green-thumbed gardener's gentle, persistent diligence.
Having nearly a quarter-century of tenure under her belt across several departments at Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency (ATCAA), Kim Pierce is one of the agency's longest serving, still actively employed workers on the payroll. ATCAA, now celebrating its year-long 40th anniversary, marks its Staff Appreciation Month by sharing her "People Helping People" story at the head of many more to come.
Kim happily recounts, "I have worked for ATCAA since September of 1997 in one program or another. I love working here with the greatest group of people. I feel blessed to be a part of this wonderful agency."
She confides, "I was a Head Start parent 25 years ago and new to this county from San Francisco…separated from my husband and a single mother of five and volunteered helping the Head Start teachers with the preschoolers' meals as my youngest son was enrolled at Soulsbyville Center.”
When the job slot was made a working position for the following school year, Kim, who by that time intimately knew the duties, was asked to apply, and went on to hold that post for several years, becoming known as "Kitchen Kim" by the little ones. All during this time she recalls that the lead center teacher kept advocating for her to go back to school and earn child development units so she could work in the classroom.
She continues, "I started Columbia College and became an assistant teacher, then got my Associates' degree…became a preschool teacher, worked part-time for many years and then as a substitute teacher for any of the Head Start Centers!" Kim went on to sub for the Family Learning Center in Tuolumne on the Summerville Elementary school campus, then subsequently applied and got the gig when it went out for open hire. After the site closed, she answered ATCAA's request to work in Jamestown as a family advocate, a few years after which she and the rest of the staff moved to the Blue Bell Site.
Following several more years of service, the kind-hearted soul was among those unfortunately laid off due to budget restraints and program restructuring but it turned out to be a brief hiatus in her ATCAA service journey. "I didn’t work for almost six months, then I volunteered for the Vita Tax program at ATCAA,” she reminisces, smiling. “And while doing [free] taxes [for financially disadvantaged, disabled, and senior clients], I was asked to apply for an open Intake Worker position in Energy Conservation and Utility Assistance -- where I am still working!"
Her department provides weatherization and water conservation repairs and upgrades in clients’ homes. In 2019 alone, Kim and her colleagues helped 800 people benefit from these programs, which are free to qualified residents. That year, about 3,900 folks also received help paying their overdue utility bills.
Kim emphasizes her gratitude for all the community service opportunities that continued to come her way. "Many, many thanks to ATCAA for the privilege and pleasure of working side by side with the incredible people on the ATCAA Team.”
She adds that ATCAA has made a positive difference within her own family. "My Head Start son is 29 years old now, and I took in a co-worker’s grandchild [now seven years of age] when she was nine months old, who benefited from the Early Head Start in Jamestown!"
ATCAA, one of the state's oldest and most successful Community Action Agencies, was founded in 1981 in partnership with Amador and Tuolumne counties' governments and other agencies, organizations, groups, and individuals. It continues to harness federal, state, and local funding for programs that are targeted to achieving measurable, positive economic impacts and self-sufficiencies among residents in need.
To learn more about all of ATCAA's current programs, ways to help or receive services, and its open to the public 40th anniversary activities, click here https://www.atcaa.org/40th-anniversary-celebration