While growing up in Brewton, Alabama, Candy Zollicoffer first learned to serve others from her grandmother. Grandma Lenestine served in her church, in her community, and often hosted others in need in her home. Candy remembers that her grandmother and other female matriarchs in her family were always ready to take a phone call, pray for others, and share what they had (even if it was their last). “The value of serving others is something I have carried with me throughout my life,” says Candy. “You don’t have to be wealthy to serve without expectations.”
As the oldest of five, Candy’s childhood was challenging. She and her family moved to Omaha, Nebraska, during the summer of her fifteenth birthday. The transition was hard on Candy as she had to adapt from a high school of just a few hundred to two thousand students while experiencing a trauma that summer that temporarily silenced her voice and ability to find joy. Thankfully, Candy eventually found her tribe and graduated from high school. From there, she attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on a scholarship where she majored in biochemistry. After switching her major and campus location, Candy graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in Nonprofit Administration. Since then, she has continued to develop her skills through different programs offered by UNO and The Nonprofit Association of the Midlands.
After stints at several nonprofits and a church, Candy ultimately landed a role as Development Assistant at Abide, a local nonprofit that has been investing in and revitalizing the neighbors and neighborhoods of North Omaha for over thirty years. Today she works as the Partnership Coordinator tasked with connecting with businesses and churches interested in revitalizing the community. She not only engages employees and church members with service projects, but also raises funds for Abide’s programs and projects.
Candy says the most gratifying thing about her work is the opportunity to connect people with opportunities that positively impact her community. She also enjoys helping people change the narrative they hear or tell themselves about North Omaha. “The most important thing everyone in Omaha needs to know about the inner-city is that it is a rich community filled with incredible leaders who are using their gifts to impact the community and city overall. We are proud of our community and love doing life together!” she adds.
Today Candy describes her life as purposeful. The best piece of advice she ever received related to pursuing her passion in life was to acknowledge the things that break her heart because it is those things that ultimately empower her to take purposeful action to make life-changing impact every day. Candy says that although she has gained much from pursuing her passion, it is gaining her voice back that makes her most proud. “I am passionate about empowering people to speak their truth, especially women and youth. For so long, I allowed myself to be silenced so that others would be more comfortable. Today I am speaking my truth so that I may bring hope and healing to those who are ready to listen.”
Candy advises those wanting to pursue more gratifying work to talk to people who know you well and are willing to be honest with you. She credits her husband, Wes, her best friend, Jennifer, her father, her supervisor, and the entire team at Abide for affirming her endeavors. “These relationships are rooted in honesty, transparency, and love,” Candy states. “I can share anything with them without fear that the relationship will suffer. They see me, listen to me, and are able to speak life into me. When they share what I cannot see, I feel empowered to make clear decisions that change the trajectory of my life for the better.”
John Bunyan once said, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” Every day, Candy Zollicoffer makes it her mission to fulfill that quote. Yet in hearing her story, it soon becomes evident that in exuberantly serving her community, Candy’s community has given back to her in so many ways, making her rich in life experiences and joy beyond her wildest dreams.
For more about Abide, its mission, and how you can help, visit https://www.abideomaha.org/.
Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.