Another, in our series, 'The Real Husbands of Sew Powerful', features the husband of our CFO/HR Director, Sue Kirby. Doug has a very specific expertise that he has put to good use to help Sew Powerful. Listen as Doug recounts his life growing up in Oregon, becoming an entrepreneur, and his return to ranching. He shares with us how he and Sue decided to spend their retirement, making a difference in the lives of those living in Zambia.
Get to Know Doug Kirby
IN THIS EPISODE
Husband of a Sew Powerful volunteer, ranching, farming, Linfield College, creation museum, ark encounter, children and grandchildren, great-grandchild, Zambia trip
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The Sew Powerful Podcast shines a light on the people behind the mission to keep girls in school and create purposeful products in Zambia. Join us every week for a new 30-minute episode to meet new people, hear inspiring stories, and learn how you can join us in this global movement. Whether you sew or not, make purses or not, you will find something to enjoy in every episode. Listen today.
Host: Jan Cancila
Guest: Doug Kirby
Jan Cancila, Host 00:04
Welcome to the Sew Powerful podcast. This is your host, Jan Cancila. You know the sound of my sewing machine means it's time for another episode. So, let's get started.
Today you're going to meet Doug Kirby. Doug is the husband of our CFO/HR director Sue Kirby. So, we're going to hear about Sew Powerful from the perspective of another spouse. You heard from my husband Chris a few weeks ago. Doug Kirby is a fascinating individual, devoted husband and grandfather, whose unusual background benefits Sew Powerful. So, sit back, and let's get to know Doug Kirby. Hi, Doug, how are you today?
Doug Kirby, Guest 00:56
Hi, Jan. I'm doing well. Thank you.
Oh, great. And where are we speaking to you from? Where are you located?
I'm located in Oregon.
In a small rural farming community called Bonanza, Oregon.
What a fantastic name: Bonanza, Oregon. And for our international listeners, Oregon is on the west coast, on the Pacific Ocean. But you're inland from from the coast. Is that right?
Yeah. I'm inland about maybe 200 miles.
Yeah. We are in what's called the south-central part of Oregon. And if I look out my window here I can see California, so.
Real close to the state line.
Oh, nice. Very nice. And where are you from originally, Doug?
Well, I'm from the other end of Oregon, the other end of the state, in the northeast section. Again, a small rural community up there. Sue and I both have that background that we share. This, by the way, is, we live on a piece of land that we purchased from her dad back in the '90s. And this is where we decided to build kind of our retirement, retirement life.
So yeah, so I live or grew up in the northeast section of the state.
Well, I've been to Oregon once many years ago, I think it was Portland was where I was, but what is the terrain like where you are? What, is it, hilly, mountainous?
Well, it's what's considered the high desert.
Yeah. Oregon's kind of divided into half. On the west side is the wet side of the state with a lot of rainfall throughout the year. And on the on the east side, where we live, is the the dry side of the state. Except for if you get in the mountainous communities, you know then, of course, we get a lot of snow in the mountains. Where we are in particular though, is in the dry, the dry desert area. So again, if I look out the window, well, we've got sagebrush and juniper trees and mountains here and there that are, don't have too many pine trees. But yeah, it's a dry part of the country. We only get maybe 10 or 12 inches of rain here annually.
My goodness. I live in Houston. We had 12 inches of rain last week. So.
Yeah, we sort of overdid it. But anyway. Okay, so tell us a little bit about your life growing up, your family and maybe siblings or, and then maybe your college days.
Well, I grew up in La Grande, Oregon, community of about 10,000. Again, farming ranching community. My parents lived there, I think, all their life, actually, after they got married. My Dad would, well, they were both raised in there, they, yeah, they grew up locally there and haven't thought about that for a while.
But yeah, they were local, there in that part of the state. And I have three siblings. I have two sisters. One is passed away now, and I also have a brother. I'm kind of the middle child. You know what, you know, being a middle child, you just kind of occupy some space in the middle, you know. But, yeah, so we had a, we had kind of a middle of the road, you know, life; it was a good life.
My high school was about 600 students. I enjoyed athletics a lot in school, especially in high school, so and I proceeded after high school, went to college to play basketball.
And so anyway, that was a big part of my growing up, was sports and athletics. Where I did grow up though, my Grandpa had a had a cattle ranch. And he was a very special guy and took me about anywhere he went. When I wasn't in school, or during the summer, I practically lived with him.
And so anyway, I had a lot of experience working on the farm. You know, haying, and in the wintertime, feeding cattle and and that sort of thing. The area's gorgeous. Where I lived is a valley and with mountain, surrounded by mountains. One side of it are the high mountains and some, that area is kind of known as the Swiss Alps of Oregon.
And so, there are high mountains there with high lakes and Alpine areas. And so, I spent a lot of my time outside. I loved to fish and hunt, as did my dad. And later on as I grew up a little bit, I loved to hike. My Dad had some horses and we used to pack into some of those remote areas. And, in fact, right after I got married to Sue, which was long time ago, 52 years ago now, but right after we got married, I took her on a horse trip back in the mountains, and we backpacked in there. Yeah, so a lot of outdoor activities up where I grew up.
So you took her into the remote mountains and she stuck with you, huh?
It's a miracle.
So what, when or how did you meet Sue?
I met her at college. So I went, like I said, to a college to play basketball. It was called Linfield College, in Oregon, kind of a small parochial school. She made the same selection, went to college. We met in our freshman year. And, you know, crazy us, fell in love and we ended up getting married the spring of the next year. So we got married young, we were 19 years old. And we have been able to spend 50 some years together here and just, I'm grateful that we we had a good we had a good good life. We raised four kids.
And you have grandchildren also, right?
Yeah, that's turned into a few grandchildren. We have 15 grandchildren right now.
Oh, my goodness.
In August we're going to have another one. And in July, our oldest granddaughter is pregnant, and so she will have a baby in July. So, we become great grandparents in July.
Wow. That's fantastic. And I understand you took the grandchildren on a trip very recently. Tell us about that.
I did, Jan. There's a site back in Kentucky and it's called the Creation Museum. And so there's there's two venues there. The Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter. And the Creation Museum is all about Creation Science. And they teach the biblical viewpoint of creation and origin of who we are and where we came from, and you know, the whole story of the Bible. The Ark Encounter is a life-size replica of the Noah's Ark.
And it is an amazing thing to to be in. I mean, it's like a football and a half field long. You know, I think it's 50 yards wide. And it's like six or seven stories high, and it's supposed to be the, you know, a replica size-wise of what the Ark was.
So anyway, yes, I took some of my grandkids, and my two boys and their families, and I took them back there. And we spent five days. We, trip, that was travel time included, but we flew back there. It's around, it's in Kentucky next, real close to Cincinnati, Cincinnati, the Ohio line there. But that was an educational trip that was just remarkable. And we, I have grandkids that went with me from age 17 all the way down to age two.
And, you know, just to see the them so interested and engaged in everything there was, it was really rewarding for me. So that was a kind of a trip of a lifetime. And it was so good that they're even talking about well, let's do it again, Pop.
We've got a few more grandkids maybe we could include on the next trip. But it was remarkable.
Yeah, that, you'll have to get a bus or something, the Kirby bus. Wow.
And so it sounds like that was a big hit with the grandkids.
It was, very much.
So okay, let's back up a little bit. Tell us: after college, what line of work were you in? What did you do for a living?
Well, I'm kind of, always have been a kind of an entrepreneurial type. And so I went to college, and I got a degree in Business Administration and Economics. And so, I went to work for a new startup company back (was trying to think of when that would have been) that would have been in the early '70s, 1970s. And it was in conjunction with (this is an interesting part of this), it's in conjunction with Sue's Dad, who had a working cattle ranch down in Southern Oregon, part of the place that we purchased to build on here, but he's gone. He's passed on now. But he was kind of an entrepreneurial type, too.
And so, he put together 10 or 12 different ranchers and farmers who produce their beef, pork and lamb, and to sell direct to the consumer. And so, he put that organization together. And the funding, these 10 or 12 families funded this. And they hired me since I was fresh out of college and looking for a job. They hired me to run it and get it started. And so that was the first of kind of my entrepreneurial experiences there. And then that kind of led into others, but we ran that and it would be much like some of the products today that you could buy that are hormone-free, chemical-free, you know, the real healthy side of things. And that was just back in the very, very beginning when people were starting to think about those things. You know, well, what has this beef cow eaten here? And what am I gonna put in my body? But anyway, we were early. And we, it was a big undertaking, was a pretty big investment. It lasted about three and a half years. And we just, we were too early for the market. And so that that launch, that startup didn't sustain itself and and so after about three and a half years, we had to close it up. But...
That gave you a taste for being an entrepreneur, I take it.
Yep, that's part of the game.
Yep. Yep, yep, yep.
So you've had a number of entrepreneurial experiences and you're retired now, I take it, right?
Yes, I am.
And so you and Sue live on a beautiful ranch in Bonanza, Oregon. I just love saying Bonanza, Oregon.
So, do you call on your background with your Grandfather and your experience as a youth as you work the ranch that you have now?
Yeah, I'm not sure that I heard all of that. I'm sorry, Jan.
Okay. Do you call on the experience you had in your youth working with your Grandfather on his ranch as you operate the ranch where Sue and you live right now?
Oh, yeah. Thanks. I do. Yeah. That, you know, some of the same, yeah, you know, they're the skills that you learn and you know how to fix fences, how to hay, harvest the grass, you know, how to take care of the animals that are out there on pasture. How to operate a tractor. And this morning I was out on my tractor moving some rocks and dirt out of the way to to do some things. Yeah, all those skills, you know, you learn on the farm.
On the farm. And they're still applicable today.
That's right. They do carry through, carry over.
Well, why don't we take a quick break, Doug. And when we come back, I want to talk to you about the work that you do for Sew Powerful, the trip that you've made to Zambia, and just your perspective on what Sew Powerful is all about. So, listeners, please stay tuned. We'll be back in one minute.
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Welcome back. We have been speaking with Doug Kirby. Doug is the husband of Sue Kirby, our CFO and HR director, and Doug has been sharing his very interesting background. And he's a native Oregonian. What, is that? Am I saying that right?
Yeah, native Oregonian.
Oregonian, okay. And, but Doug has ventured out. You took a trip. Did you take more than one, or one trip to Zambia? How many times have you been to Zambia with Sew Powerful?
Yeah, one trip so far. Yeah. We took one trip together. And I think that was in 2019. It was about, it was two years ago, I believe.
Okay. And so when, what were your impressions? What, how, was it different than you expected? Tell us a little bit about the trip from your perspective.
Well, yeah. It was it was different. You know, the Sew Powerful is engaged with the Needs Care school in in Ngombe Province. Ngombe Province is a very, very, very poor part of the capital of Zambia, Lusaka. So, I think one of the things that struck me most was the kids. We arrived on Sunday, and from our trip, and from our flight over there, and it was kind of a two-stop, a one-stop thing. We stopped in Dubai on the way over there as well as on the way back, as kind of a resting point, an overnight resting point and then we flew on to Zambia.
So anyway, we got there on Sunday. We rested a little bit. On Monday morning we headed out to Ngombe Province where this, out to the school. And one of the things that struck me most are the kids. You know, as poor as that area is, and I don't know if I can do an accurate job of describing it, but, you know, dirt streets and open sewer and huts, you know, concrete huts where people live, which many of them don't have any windows or door on them, they just kind of hang a blanket or something up. I mean, it's a, it's a very poor neighborhood. But we pulled up that school, and I'll tell you what: those kids were expecting us but they just kind of swarmed our little minibus that we use for the week to travel around.
And as we stepped out, those, yeah, those little kids, they just, you would never know, because of the smiles and the laughter and the greeting, that they, you know, welcoming us with, you would never know that this was right in the heart of that just, you know, terrible location. And we experienced that throughout the week. When we were at the school, those little kids, they had the most beautiful smiles. And sometimes not so much in the school, but out on the street, those kids, they'd smile, they'd wave, and you know, they were just kind of dirty, just because, you know, they don't have the sanitation that, you know, that we have, by far. And they were just as happy as could be, those kids. And for me, that was really my first exposure to anything like that. And so, it was really, for me, a heart rending, you know, experience. And yeah, it's it, that was the most impactful thing, I think, when I went when I went on that trip.
Now, I've seen a photo of you and Sue and a young girl from the school and she has a purse, and I believe it's the purse that Sue made. Is that right?
I think it is. Yeah.
Yeah. So were you there for the purse distribution, when the girls got the purses?
I did, I was. Yeah.
Can you can you talk about that a little bit?
Yeah, there were, I may have this number wrong, but there were probably 75 girls. So, they all came into this room. And they all came into this room. And there were wooden kind of like chairs and pews you know, wooden pews and benches they'd sit on. So, they filed in there, you know, and you know, preteen, teen girls, just got a little bit noisy as you'd expect. But they came in there, they all had a had a seat. And then they were. I'm getting ahead a little bit here, but Esther who is the coordinator of the school and and Sew Powerful on the ground operation over there. You know, she kind of gave them a little presentation. And she is so good at that. And the girls, they were just so interested and so engaged with her and then, so after, anyway, I'd call kind of a warmup, you know, welcome and we're here to help you, you know. I couldn't understand the language, to be honest with you, but they could understand, they could understand English.
And so, after Esther was done, though, then they were called up individually, you know, to come up and all these purses were put on the table and for them to select from. And so, they got to select their own purse. And so, they'd come up and they'd look and they'd choose one and pick it up and you know, they put it on, and they put it on. And then we took their picture. And I think the picture you're referring to is one of those moments when one of the girls came up, picked that, selected that purse. And Sue and I both were there and had our picture taken with her. Yeah.
Well, you know, those of us that make purses always think about and pray about the girl who is going to get our purse with the hopes that it's going to make her life better and give her a chance to complete her education. But how exciting to be able to match your exact purse with the actual girl whose life is going to be changed. That just is amazing.
As part of that trip, and I might be throwing you for, you know, I didn't tell you I was gonna ask you this, but as part of that trip did you get to go out the 3 Esthers Farm?
I did, yes.
Oh, and so now it's it's probably changed a lot in the last couple of years. But describe what you saw in 2019 at the 3 Esthers Farm.
Okay, it's 10 acres, it's fenced, and it's fenced, it's all fenced. There's a, it's cultivated with with different things, and I can't remember everything that's planted there. But they had different vegetables planted in rows. And we were, had the opportunity to to plant some banana trees. And so we spent about a half a day, I believe, out on the farm, just getting to know, you know, the operation and what they do. The purpose of that farm, by the way, is to feed these kids in the school. So at least they would get something to eat. That's kind of another story. But that's the purpose of the farm.
And anyway, this year those banana trees have, you know, grown fruit, grown bananas. And so, this was the first year, that's two years ago, two years ago when we planted those, or some of them, you know; we didn't plant them all, but we planted some of them. And the first year that they harvested bananas. And you may have seen some pictures of those kids sitting in the classroom with a banana. And, yeah, so I think about, I think about that. The caretaker has a, there's a caretaker of the place, and they have a place, real modest place to live right there on the property, which is important because sometimes, and that's why the place has a fence around it, is to, you know, is to keep the bad guys out if you would. It's out in the country.
And the goats. I understand the goats ate some of the crop before.
The fence was in place. Now, Doug, you serve on the Farm Advisory Council for Sew Powerful. Can you tell us a little bit about that and and sort of relate your experiences on the trip and maybe your background in ranching, to how you assist Sew Powerful with this work?
Well, I can say that, I can say that I'm one of a few that have come together to kind of brainstorm and get an idea of how best we could, that farm could be used, and to accomplish the objective of feeding these kids at the school. So, one of the things I think that we're learning, and it's not so much a surprise, it's just being able to say, okay, things are different there. And the way we do things here are different than the way they do things there. And so, it's a lot of that discussion, well, what will that land grow? Whether it's vegetables, whether it's fruit. Esther had grown chickens out there in a building that was constructed just for chickens. And that was a success.
And so just discussing, or how well did that go? You know, is that something that we should repeat? And so, it's just a discussion of what might work, what might work best. We have currently (and you may know this, if you're watching some of the videos and stuff, information that Jason and Cinnamon put out) but we have recently drilled a well over there for more water. And so, we can grow more.
And so, we meet regularly and just discuss some of the big ideas and then kind of work those around and Jason is, and David Derr who's the owner of of that, he and his wife is the owner of the of the farm, but they work in conjunction with Jason and Cinnamon and with Sew Powerful. And so, it's just kind of a high level, you know, get together of hey, what might work over there? Oh, we've tried that. That's not quite, well, good and but let's explore this option, etc.
Well, that sounds cool. So, Doug, I know that you're very supportive of Sue and the work that she does for Sew Powerful and the time that she spends on Sew Powerful, as is my poor husband. So, what advice or recommendations would you give to other spouses whose wives are involved with Sew Powerful? How can a spouse help Sew Powerful?
Well, you know, Sue and I retired about the same time. And we were in our mid-60s. So that was about, yeah, that was a few years ago. So, one thing we decided for the both of us is that we didn't want to sit around and get old too fast. So, we discussed, well, what can we do? And each of us kind of started to explore, you know, different things for ourselves and whatnot. Sue happened to run into Sew Powerful, I think, searching online. And one thing kind of led to another. Well, what I've seen, and well, my objective was, I wanted to support her in her retirement.
And all of our kids and grandkids live elsewhere, kind of a common phenomenon today. But so, we are here and so we don't have those grandkids to love on all the time and play with. So, you know, we have some time and attention and resources, maybe we can get involved in something and make a difference. Well, my objective was to support Sue and whatever she might find. And so, one thing led to another and she discovered Sew Powerful, talked with Jason, talked with Cinnamon, started doing one thing after another. And I just saw how much she enjoyed it. And so, my thought was, well, I need to support her. And just, you know, giving her, you know, positive input about, yeah, this sounds like something you'd really enjoy. And so, for any any other husbands maybe, you know, of purse makers are people that are considering getting involved with Sew Powerful, my experience has been good.
The organization is really, really, really good, you know, from top to bottom, I might say, but I'm a supporter. I think it's a good place for Sue to invest her time. And, you know, kind of a bonus for me. But kind of a bonus for me is that on, I've kind of had a chance to, you know, look at myself, well what it, is there anything I can do to contribute? And so I'm kind of hanging around, you know, and once in a while I'll, Sue and I talk about it a lot. That was why, one reason that I went to Zambia along with Sue was just to see, well, what is it you're getting involved in here? And once I saw how authentic that that work, Sew Powerful is, you know, I came home and really just kind of decided, hey, well, this is something that I need to be positive about, I need to support Sue with. And so anyway, all is good. And I think she's made an excellent, excellent choice of what something she can really invest herself in here for the next, you know, stage of life, however long that lasts, and we will, yeah, we just, I just expect her to, to keep going with it. Yeah.
Well, Doug, I want to thank you so much for your time today. It's been a pleasure to get to know you. And you know, of course, I know Sue pretty well. And she mentions your name all the time and I figured you're going to be a pretty good guy, and obviously you are. So, thank you for being on the Sew Powerful podcast. This has been fun.
Well, thank you, Jan. I enjoyed it.
Okay, all right. Well, hopefully I'll get to talk to you in person at some point. So have good day.
If what you've heard today inspires you to want to make a difference, I urge you to explore the Sew Powerful website at www.sewpowerful.org. That's SEW POWERFUL dot ORG. The website has great information about the organization. It's where you can download the free purse patterns or even make a donation. We hope you will join us again next week when we bring you another Sew Powerful story. Thanks for listening. Now, go out and have a Sew Powerful day.
ABOUT THE HOST
Jan Cancila has been making purses for Sew Powerful since 2014. She serves the organization as Director, Global Volunteerism, the Area Manager for Shows and Events-Mid/South USA and as the Houston Regional Coordinator. She was a public speaking major at Hanover College and holds an MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University. Jan had a 25-year career with The Coca-Cola Company before owning and operating a linen and party rental business in Houston. She is married with two grown sons, a lovely daughter-in-law and two remarkable granddaughters. Jan’s published work includes more than 100 online articles for Examiner.com. Reach Jan with comments or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.