It was at the top of a ladder in her home, painstakingly painting some trimwork, that Kim Chiodi had a realization. As a career woman, wife and mother of three, she did not have to do it all.
“I grew up in the ’70s when women were supposed to say they could have it all. And have it all perfect,” she recalled. “I was 40 years old before I realized you could depend on someone else.”
That realization was a huge relief, and it’s an idea she believes is falling away: There is a growing understanding you can have it all when you work with others.
A champion for children
She has worked to make that happen by supporting more dependable and enriching early childhood care and education for young children. Chiodi (pronounced key-OH-dee), who will be honored this month by 4C for Children as a Champion for Children, remembers her panic when she was pregnant with her first child and searching for a child care provider.
“I put an ad in the newspaper because that’s what you did back then,” she said, full of the confidence of a human resources professional. But among the hundreds of responders, she found not a single, reliable candidate.
Word-of-mouth did the trick, finally, and she found a compassionate caregiver who became a part of their family for years. She never forgot, though, those endless interviews and wanted to ensure that other families could easily find quality child care. She became a part of the 4C board and is committed to the organization, which recruits caregivers, offers training that emphasizes early childhood education and serves as a clearinghouse for parents and providers.
A passion for 4C
As the Western & Southern Financial Group senior vice president for public relations and corporate communications, Chiodi is a corporate leader, serving on a number of nonprofit boards. However, her passion for 4C is deep, and her admiration for former CEO Sallie Westheimer and present CEO Vanessa Freytag – whom she helped hire – is profound.
“The relationship between the board and the leadership has always been open and trusting,” Chiodi said. “And the mission of affordable, accessible early childhood education is central.” Thanks to 4C’s efforts, she said, parents can find providers who are more than babysitters – they are early childhood education professionals.
Freytag said part of that board and leadership synergy is because of Chiodi. Even though she’s not currently on the board, “she comes back, year after year, to work with our providers who are part of a yearlong leadership program. Kim understands the work they do and how they work in an environment that’s not predictable. She shows a real understanding … and really relates to the difficult journey leadership is. She really gets across how they can keep growing.”
In every situation, Freytag said, Chiodi “exudes appreciation” toward the providers and to 4C. And when taking time from her daily work to be at 4C, Chiodi has straightforwardly said, “There is no more important place I need to be than here right now.”
That straightforwardness is what drew another former board member, Penny Pensak, to Chiodi. “I love that honesty in her,” Pensak said. “She is really comfortable speaking about what she’s thinking … and she’s very thoughtful.”
Pensak said she seeks out Chiodi when she is at a crossroads. “She’s a great listener and helps you sort out thoughts that are overwhelming or confusing and weighs things out in a really rational way.”
That transparency is particularly clear when discussing what she can do to make the world a better place through her work, at 4C and as a mother. “Her face and her eyes light up,” Pensak said, “especially when she talks about her family.”
A passion for family
Chiodi’s family has evolved over the past few years. Her two older children live on their own, pursuing careers in the Cincinnati area. Her youngest is a senior at the University of Cincinnati. Eighteen months ago, a crisis led her two great-nieces, 15 and 14, and her great-nephew, 13, to move into what had just become an empty nest.
With her husband, Nick, who now works at home, she said, “You do what you have to do … and family is family.”
Her dedication to family began with her own childhood in Oakley. Her father and her grandmother, born in 1898, raised her and her two sisters in a household that had not forgotten the Depression of the 1930s. “We saved string, reused bags,” she recalled. “That’s why I’m the one in the office who’s always turning off the lights and cuts the doughnuts in half for meetings.”
A life’s work, leaving a legacy
A bookworm and an artist growing up, Chiodi began at Xavier University as an art major but switched to psychology. She earned a graduate degree in organizational psychology and began working in human resources at Western & Southern. After 12 years, she moved to a machine tool company, then started her own consulting business. Western & Southern was a client. Ten years ago, she returned to the offices where she had begun her career.
“There are millions of policyholders and clients who rely on us,” Chiodi said of her company’s mission and her commitment to it. “I believe you set the course and you develop the heck out of people,” she said. “If you develop those who are with you now, they will develop those who are coming after.”
She has relied on that approach in her volunteer work and even in her parenting. By teaching children’s care providers to be leaders and by encouraging her children and young family members to set goals and take on challenges, she is reaching beyond and setting a course.
“I’m pretty transparent,” she said, in reference to her lifestyle – one that’s consistent, direct and steady. She summed it up neatly: “You don’t have a home life and a work life. You have a life.”
More About Chiodi
Role model: Her father, who recently passed away after six battles with cancer. “He was completely nonjudgmental. And he was always the voice of reason and the moral compass for our family.”
Motto: Drawn from the “Hokey Pokey”: You put your whole self in.
A great night out: Playhouse in the Park or a movie (she liked “Green Book” recently), maybe spicy shrimp and tequila at a restaurant on the way.
Music in the car: Her college son adds his own music to SoundCloud to keep his mom current.
Decompression: CrossFit four times a week, sometimes alongside classmates less than half her age, and often with her adult children. “If I skip too many days, I’m not a nice person.” And one night a week, she goes to a power yoga class, but admits she has never been able to clear her mind for more than 2 seconds.
Next trip: Costa Rica, at a resort where she, her husband and adult children will enjoy morning workouts before collapsing on the beach.
Favorite escape: The family owns a cottage in Lakeside, Ohio, in a Chautauqua community that features no TV and a lot of cultural, educational and spiritual programming each summer, along with an emphasis on physical activity. “It takes me two days to convert from my work self.”
Family tradition: Taking on 30-day challenges. Failure means a donation for that day to a favorite cause. Her daughter is currently doing 100 air squats a day; Chiodi opted for no tequila (or other alcohol) for 30 days in January. 4C already received a donation, she admitted.
Champions for Children gala
Saturday, March 16, 6 p.m., Jack Casino
Kim Chiodi and Dr. O’dell Owens will be honored by 4C for Children as Champions for Children at the 13th annual gala.
4C will present the Sallie Westheimer Community Impact Award posthumously to the family of Dr. Dorothy June Sciarra, a longtime leader in early childhood education.
The evening will include a cocktail reception, dinner, dancing and after-party. Black tie is optional.
The gala committee includes co-chairs Christy Stockton and Jill Warman with members Lucy Burke, Adia Molloy, Chris Pratt, Veronica Sebald, Nicole Trimpe and Jessica Woodward.
Tickets are $150 and up.