The Heart of Kernersville: Nikki McCormick

By NJ Clausen

Hello, Everyone! It is such a wonderful thing when you enjoy what you do! Each month I have the pleasure of learning more and sharing stories about different people in our very special community. This month I would like to introduce you to a woman making a difference… Nikki McCormick.

The youngest of four children, Nikki was born in McDowell County and the family moved to Kernersville when she was in second grade. As Kernersville was a smaller community at that time, Nikki and her best friend (who was also named Nikki) would walk or ride their bikes everywhere. A favorite memory is when she was on the girls’ softball team in Walkertown covering third base, a sport currently enjoyed by her daughter Ava who plays the position of catcher. One of the activities Nikki enjoyed most as a child were the family camping trips, where they would ‘primitive camp’ by a lake. To this day she still loves to go camping, especially to a favorite place where there is no cell service until you drive into town, making you truly disconnected. Nikki smiled as she talked of marching in the Christmas parade when she was young. Her mom would get a cardboard box and wrap her like a present with her arms sticking out…it made her feel very important!

Nikki did not have the easiest childhood, and when her parents divorced while she was in the 5th grade, her mother did all she could to keep the children ‘pleasantly unaware’ that they lived in poverty by working three jobs so they could have what they needed. Nikki spoke of how that experience developed compassion, grit, persistence, and appreciation in her. In school, Nikki’s favorite subjects were reading and writing. She was part of the Junior Civitan Club, which met at East Forsyth High School. They did several service projects, which included environmental clean-up and fundraisers for non-profits, to name just a few. Nikki was also a member of the Pep Club and the National Honor Society. She smiled as she remembered the ‘awesome’ day she was inducted. Nikki also recounted advice one of the phenomenal teachers at EFHS gave to her and wrote in her yearbook. He told her “I over E”, letting intelligence lead over emotion. During her high school years Nikki also held a full-time job and she credits her mother as the role model of a strong work ethic.

After graduation from high school, Nikki went to the University of Tennessee for her undergraduate degree then stayed to get her master’s degree in Social Work with a focus in Management and Community Practice. She stayed in Knoxville after attaining her degree and worked with a training program that helped older teens and young adults learn a trade such as masonry, carpentry, or helped them finish their high school diploma or GED.  She loved this job and stayed with it for a couple of years, but when her mom had a health issue and her nieces were different people each time she saw them, she knew she wanted to come home. 

Nikki started looking for jobs, knowing she was going to be very picky as she was happy where she was, and only applied for a position with the Second Harvest Food Bank. In 2006 she returned to Kernersville to be close to family and to start this new position. The position she accepted was Agency Outreach Coordinator. Shortly after her arrival, Nikki was promoted to Agency Services Manager and is now the VP of Partnerships and Impact. When asked about a typical day, Nikki shook her head and said there is no such thing, that every day is different. She explained that the primary mission of Second Harvest Food Bank is providing crisis food provision. Nikki further explained that while that will always be the primary focus, they do so much more. There are licensed dieticians on staff, nutrition education and cooking classes are offered, there is a Culinary Arts training program, they do advocacy & public policy and community engagement. For the past six years, they have been looking at systems level changes that create conditions that make it easier for people to provide for themselves. Nikki added that children who are not receiving adequate nutrition cannot focus or perform well in school. She referenced Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and how an individual cannot move up a level until the needs of the preceding level are met. 

Nikki shared that data shows that most people who need help are working, they are just not making enough to make ends meet. The myth that the recipients (including working class and seniors) are lazy or want to see what they can get is just not true. The best way for people to help is to donate food, time, or money. Each dollar donated provides seven meals. There is also a great need for volunteers. 

Nikki loves Kernersville, and she would not have come back if it did not mean so much to her.  She wasn’t born here, but it is home.

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