Meet Ginny Nemchick. She’s an operations manager at a business incubator in East Liberty. In this episode of From the Source, Ginny talks about her work in the nonprofit space and how growing up the responsible sibling ties into the work values she stands by today


Ginny: The question of what do you know for sure? I was like, this is blowing my mind because I don’t know what I know for sure. I don’t know if I know anything for sure. 

Jourdan: I connected with Ginny Nemchick through her response to one of our season three prompts. What do you know to be true? For sure? 

Ginny: I don’t know. I guess I just wanted to participate because I was so intrigued by hearing what other people also would say to this. 

Jourdan: Ginny’s lived in the Pittsburgh region her entire life, and she’s never, not ever had a for profit job. She’s only worked for nonprofits. She currently works for a center in East Liberty as their operations manager and volunteers with Sisters PGH. SistersPGH serves transgender and gender nonconforming youth in Pittsburgh. Ginny identifies as queer, and a good part of our chat is about her growing up, the eldest of three, and how the theme of responsibility translates into her work values today, giving off some real in-retrospect Stand By Me Castle Rock vibes.

Ginny: One time I remember my brother made instant mashed potatoes. He read the instructions wrong, and he put a whole cup of salt in the instant Mashed potatoes. It supposed to be like one teaspoon. So, yeah, we had plenty of like little disasters, but no, no big ones. So we did all right. But everyone made it. 

Jourdan: Listen to what made Ginny reach out to us. Here’s what she knows to be true, for sure. 

Ginny: Think I’m a person who often sees things from a lot of different angles and is like, you know, maybe overthinking things a little bit. And so I kind of felt like, Oh, what do I know for sure? But then when I reflected on my answers, I was like, I do know this for sure. Both of these things that I said, I feel like have driven my life in in different ways. And so the two things that I said were that no decisions really should be made for people without their input and that life isn’t binary, meaning that there are a lot of gray scale spectrums to different things that we experience. And I think in the world, we’re often told that it it does have to be binary. And so anyways, with those two things, even though I know those two things to be true for sure, and I would probably argue all day with anyone about either of those items, I do agree that there are probably people who would say no like it has to be this way or that way, like you have to be good or bad, you have to be a boy or girl, whatever. Even though we can point to so, so, so, so, so many examples of that not being the case. I think the reason that people are drawn to that kind of thinking is because it makes things simpler and it makes you really think and question things when you don’t just accept that you know that there are binaries. So, yeah, I did. I did appreciate the opportunity to be able to say that like sort of loud and clear because I don’t think it’s discussed, you know, all that often, at least not in that kind of language. 

Jourdan: And look at us here about to discuss it. 

Ginny: I know, look at us. 

Jourdan: Filling in the gaps. Let’s step into some of the questions that also are the like walls for season three. Have you ever had to break into anything or you ever first to do something to accomplish something to in line for something? So tell me about you breaking in. 

Ginny: Well, this is funny because again, I liked that you didn’t even have like a binary way to answer these questions. You were like, Take it however you however you want to take it. And the first thing that I thought about was breaking into my own house when I was growing up. I was the oldest of group of siblings, and I was always like entrusted to, you know, take care of the keys and get everyone home in that in-between time, after, after school and before my mom came home from work. But just like now, I was a little bit clutter brained, distracted, whatever. And so I would lose the keys sometimes and we would have to break into the house. So boost my brother in through the window and then get in. So it just got me thinking a lot about those memories of growing up and all my siblings, none of them live in the Pittsburgh area anymore. And so I don’t know. It’s like, it was fun to think about that, just, I don’t know, being old together and then like breaking into our own house was funny. 

Jourdan: I always enjoy like reflecting back on childhood and childhood memories with folks. I think that, you know how we grow up, how we come to be the people that we are when I get to meet people who are part of the podcast is so influential in our development. And oftentimes, if we are open and ready for it, we can find like really beautiful gems of knowledge and little like peekaboo into who we’re going to become and like what paths we were on. And all of that. So from a young child, you were super, you were put in a position of responsibility. I’m not going to say you was responsible because you was losing the key left and right. 

Ginny: I was loosing the key. 

Jourdan: You were losing the key. How do you feel like you handled responsibility then? Or what did you learn about being in charge of something and taking care of people, or at least like being part of a team? 

Ginny: So that gives me so much to reflect on. I feel like this is therapy we could really get into it. But but no, I mean, I have. So I grew up the only girl in my family right now. I’m still wrestling with whether or not I want to use the term like woman to describe myself or not. Growing up, that’s that’s where I was at. I was with all my brothers. I think I have a little bit of that first child syndrome of like needing to be in charge of things, like wanting to be in charge of things even now. So my brothers, two of them live in Europe, and I was I haven’t seen them in years because we haven’t been able to get over there, especially given the pandemic. And so we were my mom and I were going to take our first kind of like family trip over there and 2020, which of course, did not happen, but I was absolutely project managing the whole trip, you know, Google Docs, spreadsheets. This is what we’re doing. This is where we’re saying. This is how long the train trip takes, like all of that stuff. So that’s still with me. But I think, like my brothers always taught me to, like, be a little bit more loosey goosey than I was because I, I was always, like, kind of like regimented and being, like I would have a plan. You know, when I was babysitting those boys, I would be like, OK, well, from noon to one, you know, we’re reading Harry Potter out loud and then we’re going to make this for lunch and then we’re going to do this and then we’re going to take a walk and get ice cream or play in the backyard or whatever it is. And so as much as I have that desire to kind of have a plan and control things, I think I also know that it’s good to like, go with the flow, have some fun where you can. And I think my brothers bring that out of me, which is nice, and I think they still do. 

Jourdan: This kind of like regimented way of doing things being on schedule. Is this something that was natural to you or is it a result of you being put into a leadership position with your brothers? 

Ginny: That is like so hard to answer, because I think it’s probably both, like, a lot of things are. Like, I remember we had a time when there was like an early dismissal from school, like there was, I don’t know, like a tornado warning, something like that. And the school was shutting down. And I remember, I was, this, I was probably in second grade when this happened and I was like, had all this anxiety about where was my brother and where, you know, where was he in school? And did he know that we were leaving soon and was scared? And I remember another kid telling me, like, you’re worrywart and I was like, so offended by that term. I never heard it before, and I was like, How dare you? But then I’m like, Oh yeah, I really was. I was a little anxious weirdo. 

Jourdan: Very much. I am Neol. I am the one. I will do it. I will get us through the matrix. 

Ginny: Yeah, but that’s not always a good way to be, because then you become, like, codependent. You open yourself up to like not asking for help when you need it because you feel like you’re the one who’s got to do it like, I’m the one, that’s me. If I could add a third, like one thing I know for sure, it’s that you should ask for help when you need it. Yup. Absolutely. Even though it’s really it’s really hard to do. 

Jourdan: I mean, sometimes it’s not a parent, especially if you’ve been in a role of leadership and responsibility and taking care of other people that you do need help. Totally. Was that a challenge for you knowing when you needed help? 

Ginny: I think so. Yeah, I think so. Especially like so young because I went from being in college to working full-time, being married, having my own place, being totally independent like immediately. And I was just like This is what it is to be an adult now, looking back. I know that that’s not the case, and I really believe in the value and the power of like collaboratively tackling projects and community care and being vocal about what your needs are and setting boundaries and all of that stuff. It is more adult to be able to take a step back and look at, OK, these are my strengths, and these are the areas where like, I need a little bit more support. So that’s actually like the more mature way to do it. But you kind of don’t know until until, you know, 

Jourdan: How do you show up at work? Like you’re you’re you said you’re like in the marketing space, but also if you’re volunteering with Sisters PGH. I personally feel like that’s a through line. I am not a psychologist, but I just thought that was really interesting how you were talking about collaborating and working together. And now you’re in the nonprofit space, which I mean, if like, that’s like a major tenant in nonprofit work, it’s like working together. Let’s all do this thing so that we can heal these other things that are impacting the livelihood of other people that we don’t want that to happen. Do you see a connection between that or am I just making that? 

Ginny: No, I do see a connection. There’s a couple of different things I think that drew me to nonprofit work. Collaboration is definitely one of them. But I also think as someone who is, like, socialized as a girl and was always supposed to be helping. It’s very, it’s like pretty common for girls and women to be told to go into sort of helping professions. That was always something that was of interest to me, but also I have in all my time in the nonprofit space, you know, kind of become a little bit more disillusioned with how much are certain nonprofits really helping people. And what are the ways that we have these like structures that we have to operate within that are actually like holding people back, that are trying to get good stuff done in their community. And so I would love to see more collaboration in the nonprofit space in the sense of like true collaboration, where like people with resources aren’t necessarily trying to dictate the outcomes, but are are truly collaborating with the people doing the work. Meaning like, first of all, listening to the people who are most impacted first and foremost. And then from there, like figuring out truly like collaborative solutions. There are these models that show right, like the people who who have the money are like here, right? Then that gets funneled into like middle-class people who are like making all these decisions. But are the people sitting in the office, really, the people like experiencing whatever, you know, issue or societal problem that you’re trying to solve? And so really, that goes back to my like, what do you know for sure? Kind of question is like, Yeah, you, you need to listen to the people who have that lived experience. And that’s the only way that true collaboration is going to happen, because otherwise you’re just like patting yourself on the back for doing what you think is a good thing to do, but is not necessarily true. 

Jourdan: Collaboration is not necessarily the move you think it is. I agree with you. It definitely moves away from collaboration and more towards control and self-gratification and ego because, you know, if you are the person with the resources, you’re holding the pie and it’s like, you’re the rainmaker. And maybe you feel like you shouldn’t be like letting, opening the heavens to just shower on people. You’re just like, Well, let me just trickle some over here. Let me let a few drops drop over here. Ignoring that what’s behind those decisions and where you’re letting it rain is impacted by how you think your beliefs, what your used to, what you think is normal, what you think about that outcome should be, what you think about the people that you’re helping. 

Ginny: Totally. 

Jourdan: And there’s scenarios on how they got there, and what you think is the best way to get them out of it. 

Ginny: Totally. I have been also lucky to work with many, many wonderful people over my career, so I’m not trying to single anyone out specifically. But I will say that I have also been in rooms with people who were clearly doing things for their own ego, who clearly wanted their name on the annual report or on the name of the project or on the flyer or on the banner. It doesn’t even really matter what the outcome was like. They just thought it wouldn’t it be cool if we do X without doing any real research about findings of people who have studied and done this work for a really long time. And so to me, that’s you know unfortunately the type of quote unquote collaboration that I do sometimes see in the nonprofit space. And and I would love for it not to be that way. When I first got involved, I was so naive because I work for this place that said their mission was to end poverty. So when I’m 21, I’m like, Oh, OK, well, look like there’s all this research that shows like what is really most helpful is that people who are living in poverty need to have money. That’s the bottom line. Here’s a start, Why don’t we make sure that, like and it was a big organization, and they employed more than four or five hundred people, and I was like, Well, we could start by making sure that our employees have a living wage. And like, I really thought I was doing something with that suggestion, Jourdan. And the people in charge were like, get out of here Ginny, like, what are you doing? But I really was like, Oh, you know, like, that’s what you said the mission was, so let’s do the mission. 

Jourdan: Yup, that’s not the way we do it, Ginny.

Ginny: No. Or like, I was involved in this program where most of the participants lived in public housing. And so we were going to have this like end of the year celebration. And they wanted to invite some board members to come to the end of the year celebration. And I was like, Well, we should just have it at the community room in this public housing community that we’re working within because most of our families don’t have cars, it’s at night. They have little kids, like make it as easy for them as possible. They just have to kind of walk across the street to get to this room. And then I was told like, Oh, like our board members don’t want to go there at night. It’s like, Well, they should not be allowed on our board. And also, are you OK with families like living in conditions that you don’t feel comfortable walking past? Like, how is that OK? So I mean, I can tell stories like that all day. 

Jourdan: That just really hit a space. I’m going to try not to even, to open that little closet because, yeah, nonprofit work is crazy. And unfortunately, there are moments where outreach or celebrations feel more like a charette to make people feel good about the money that they’re giving. So it’s like, let’s have these people play these roles that will make people feel like what they’re doing makes a difference. 

Ginny: So then they keep opening up their wallets and giving the money or whatever without having to, like, put any real like skin in the game. I don’t know. I’m committed to trying, to trying to do it right, and I really have kind of like high standards for like who I want to associate with in terms of my work. Because if if I’m not seeing the work being done in the way that I think that it needs to be done, I do feel like I’m at a point in my life where I can A recognize that and B have the wherewithal to, like, walk away if it’s not a good fit. 

Jourdan: Season three of From The Source podcast is produced by Jourdan Hicks and Andy Kubis and edited by Halle Stockton. If you’re curious to learn how you can share your story with us or appear in an episode or from the source, you can get in touch with me by sending me an email to PublicSource is an independent nonprofit newsroom in Pittsburgh. You can find all of our reporting and storytelling at public source dot org. I’m Jourdan Hicks. Stay safe and be well. 

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Jourdan is a senior community correspondent at PublicSource. Previously, Jourdan was engaged as a community-based educator in the Hazelwood section of the city. A lifelong Pittsburgh resident, she’s...