KINGS BEACH, Calif. - In a soft tone, Amy Kelley talks about how she grew up in Newtown, Conn. She says it is a quaint, rural town with cobblestone streets. She says she doesn't know any of the city's families whose loved ones died in the tragic shooting on Dec. 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School.One senses if she were living there now, she would be dedicating her life to helping them.Young and energetic, Kelley - who became executive director of the North Tahoe Family Resource Center in November 2012 - often displays a kind, compassionate smile. Her life has been about helping people help themselves. As a young adult, she traveled extensively in Europe, living in Budapest for two years. There she met Jim, her future husband. Together they traveled through Russia and through Eastern and Western Europe. One salient memory of Kelley's was her adventure of driving from Budapest to Istanbul in a truck with three male travel companions (one of whom was Jim).She said she saw much poverty on her travels but also saw the strength of people who in other ways had a wonderful quality of life many Americans don't know."I saw families able to sit down to dinner and share time together," said Kelley, admitting, however, that she also saw needs not being met.Through her adult life, Kelley has been heavily involved with social work with nonprofit organizations before taking a break to become a stay-at-home mom to her three children. But as her children became self-reliant, she was drawn back to empowering people, something she wanted to add to her family life."Sometimes, we can't deny what really calls us," she said.Kelley spoke with a quiet passion this week when discussing the family resource center."I feel like this is my home and my community, and that's my responsibility to shepherd this organization," she said.Aside from Kelley, the center has a talented staff of seven, all with unique roles to connect with the community, she said."We connect folks with resources where they would like to strengthen that part of their lives," she said.A common misconception within the North Tahoe community is that the center simply gives to those in need. To the contrary, she said its real purpose is to empower people so they do not need assistance.The center is connected with a network of programs and services that many community members could use, but are not aware of, Kelley said, such as programs for low-cost health insurance and others directing families who cannot access health insurance to alternative health care. Another program, the MAMA Club, helps parents deal with family challenges, and the center also offers English as a second language classes, among other services.As if heading the center is not enough to keep her busy, Kelley also is board chair for the Sacramento Regional Children's Health Initiative, "Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures," is an executive board member of "California Coverage & Health Initiatives" and is a board member of the Boys and Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe.So how does she do it all and still have time for her family?"I have a great husband. He has supported me in everything I've ever done," she said.Kelley replaces former North Tahoe Family Resource Center Director Emilio Vaca, who left in September. The center is located at 8321 Steelhead Ave. in Kings Beach. Learn more by calling 530-546-0952 or visiting www.northtahoefrc.org.- Frank Fisher is a freelance reporter for the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. He can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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