Being a Good Samaritan: Kathy Clem

photo by Frank Farmer/ originally published Spring 2017

by Abbie Walker

Located in Midtown on Millsaps Avenue, there is a place of hope for many. Here, the community can go, not only for food and clothes, but also for support and compassion. The Good Samaritan Center is a nonprofit whose mission is to offer resources for those in the tri-county area in emergency crisis situations. And for over 30 years, executive director Kathy Clem has been dedicated to the cause.

“If you can get here, we will help. And if we can’t help, we will find someone who can,” Clem says.

Clem’s involvement with volunteering led her to The Good Samaritan Center, and now the Florida-native is a Fondren resident and an active member of the Jackson community.

Clem describes herself as Good Sam’s “head cheerleader.” It’s her job to keep things running smoothly and to encourage her team of employees. “We want to do the most with the gifts we are given,” Clem says. She considers The Good Samaritan Center to be a “progressive nonprofit,” particularly in how it offers resources for all people. Her goal is to work collaboratively with other nonprofits in Jackson to form a “network of helping hands” in order to meet needs and be “instruments of change” in the community and, ultimately, Clem is an advocate for her clients and for Jackson.

Each day looks different for Clem. She may be working with employees and volunteers or spending time in the thrift store with clients. “You just never know what’s going to happen each day,” she says. “It’s a challenge, but it’s fun.” Even after almost 32 years of serving at Good Sam, Clem says there’s always more to learn and do.

Her time at The Good Samaritan Center has shown Clem the impact acts of kindness can make on someone’s life. “I want to serve God, and the best way I can do that is to serve others.” Clem models this servant mindset in how she leads her employees. “I love leading a group of people that want to make a difference,” she says. “And I think good leaders have to be good followers.”

“Kathy is determined,” says coworker Veronica Herrin. “No matter what it is, she’s always willing to jump in and help out. Her positivity is infectious.”

Beverly Odom, who has worked with Clem for four years, agrees. “She’s a great person. If you have a problem, she’s the type who will sit down and help you through it.”

Clem has bachelor’s degree in business from Belhaven University and has served as president of the Fondren Renaissance Foundation and Our Fondren Neighborhood Association boards. She also helped start Hunger Free Jackson, the first anti-hunger coalition in Mississippi, as well as the Hunger Free Annual Conference.

When she’s not working or volunteering, Clem is competing in triathlons, cheering on the Florida Gators or spending time with her wife in Florida. She’s a member of Barley’s Angels, a group of women who love craft beer, as well as the advocacy group, Raise Your Pints. But most importantly, Clem says she’s passionate about Jackson and its people.

As a working woman, Clem hopes to be a “beacon in the community.”

“I think women are intuitive about what people need,” she says. “And I feel very blessed to do the job I do and to be able to be an example.”

Clem says she strives to show her nieces that they can be strong and opinionated, while also being compassionate. “You can be powerful and still care,” Clem says. “You can make a difference.”

For more information, visit goodsamaritancenter.org

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A freelance writer from the Deep South with a love of reading, writing, dramatic storytelling, indie music, and her corgi pup.

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