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The Leadership Kearney program was started in 1990 by the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, with the goal of developing a flow of qualified volunteers and leaders for the organizations while supplying a pool of ready emerging leaders for other boards and committees throughout the area. This key foundation has propelled the Leadership Kearney program throughout the last 30 years. The program acknowledges alumni through the Leadership Kearney Distinguished Alumni award. Alumnus that are eligible for nomination have established themselves as leaders in Kearney area, the region or the nation. These individuals also have a strong record of leadership within the Leadership Kearney program.

The 2020 Leadership Kearney Distinguished Alumni is a perfect representation of the Leadership Kearney mission. She is a leader who is committed to improving the quality of life in Kearney and the surrounding communities. Leadership Kearney is proud to announce the 2020 recipient of the Leadership Kearney Distinguished Alumni award, Judi Sickler. Judi currently serves as the Executive Director/President of the Kearney Area Community Foundation and was a member of Class 4, where she served as the Adult Program Co-Chair. Born in Meade, Kansas, she graduated from Kansas State University and first worked in product management and marketing for Coleman, which brought her to Kearney in 1989. She began volunteering, met people, made connections, and created her life in Kearney.

Judi served as a founding board member of Leadership Kearney in 1994-1995. From there she was hired in 2001 as Executive Director of the Kearney Area Community Foundation. Judi fell in love with assisting the dreamers and the helpers through their passion to develop or create something to give back to the community and others. She continues her passion of volunteering by serving on countless numbers of boards and organizations.

Buffalo County Community Partners • Resource Committee Member Buffalo County COAD – Community Organizations Assisting in Disaster • Member Buffalo County Community Response Group (created during pandemic 2020) • Member Buffalo County JIC – Joint Information Center (created during pandemic 2020) • Member Business and Professional Women • Club Chair • Selected as Nebraska Young Careerist of the Year Crane River Theater • Minor Part in Musical “Annie” First United Methodist Church • Chancel Choir Member • Endowment Committee • Finance Committee Member • Pumpkin Patch Childcare Committee • Sunday School Teacher Girl Scouts • Troop Leader Heartland Council of Community Foundations • Chair • Treasurer Junior Achievement • Classroom Volunteer/Teacher • Kearney Area Disaster Recovery Group (created after 2019

flooding) • Committee Chair • Grant Review Committee Kearney Area Storytelling Festival • Local Amateur Storyteller Kearney Bearcat Booster Club • Public Relations Chair Kearney Family YMCA • Board Member Kearney Noon Rotary • Board Chair • Club President • Founder of the Smoke Detector Project after death of daughter’s preschool friend • Read with Rotary Volunteer at Bright Futures • Rotary Youth Exchange Coordinator • Rotary Youth Exchange Host Family Kearney Soccer Club • Board Chair • Coach Kearney Works • Board Chair • Board Vice-Chair • Founding Board Member Leadership Kearney – Class of 1994/95 • Adult Program Co-Chair • Board Chair PEO – Chapter IX • Club Secretary Red Cross • Blood Donor • TOPSoccer (for players with disabilities) • Coach • Program Coordinator University of Nebraska – Kearney • Chancellor’s Leadership Class Speaker • Center for Rural Research and Development Advisory Council Member • Great Conversations Advisory Board • Our Future Together Advisory Board United Way of the Kearney Area • Board Chair • Campaign Co-Chair

During her time as the President of the KACF, Judi and her board have brought Give Where You Live to Buffalo County, which started in 2013. In the first year the program had people donating $453,000 and by 2018 donations topped $1 million. Last year the organization helped around 177 organizations and brought in $1.3 million into the community. Total donations over time have eclipsed $6.5 million dollars being donated in the Kearney area. “We plant seeds for things that may not grow for years and years. Now I appreciate that. So many great things have come from that patience,” she said.

Adding up all her contributions to Leadership Kearney and the Kearney community Judi has lead with her heart and has made this community a better place all while being very humble. Congratulations Judi!

Check out this fun PodCast interview with Judi to learn more.


Past Winners Include: Mark Sutko in 2005, Ben Homan Sr. in 2006, Lucas Dart in 2007, Stan Clouse in 2008, Thomas Tye II in 2009, Sherry Morrow & Leann Clouse in 2010, Dan Lindstrom in 2011, Cindy Pickel in 2012, Mike Konz in 2013, Dan Shundoff in 2014, Matt Meister in 2015, Jon Watts in 2016, Bruce Lear in 2017, Paul Kenney in 2018, Alex Straatmann 2019.

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