ICON of the Month: Nancy Plake

Executive director at United Way of Johnson County prioritizes family and community

By Todd Travis

Nancy Plake became the first executive director of United Way of Johnson County in 1990. She’s been a Center Grove resident since 1987. “I love living in the Center Grove area. My kids all grew up in the Center Grove area, and it has been home for me and my family for many years. I really value the community, particularly the Center Grove schools. My kids got a very good education there and were involved in sports. So I’m entrenched in the community professionally and in home life,” she said. Plake has a husband, three kids and a “bonus kid” who are all important to her. “My faith is also very important to me and my family. We have been going to Mt. Pleasant Church for almost 30 years, and we are very active in the church,” she added.

Plake said she receives a lot of joy working with the United Way of Johnson County. “There are many parts of my job that are my favorite,” she said. “They range anywhere from the donors, who give so generously to our community, to the volunteers who drive our organization. One of my favorite things to do is to go and talk to potential donors and tell them about the great work that the United Way of Johnson County does with our community. I also love working with our volunteers who are very active and the board of directors who are very involved. The other part is working with our partner agencies and other community organizations. We are very lucky to have agencies and people in the community who want to collaborate and work together and get things done to address the needs of our citizens,” she added.

One of Plake’s proudest moments includes the response the United Way and partners had to the covid-19 pandemic. “We were honored with receiving almost $1.5 million through grants and donations to address the economic relief in our community. That took a mountain of coordination and willingness to come together as a group and address that. Many people had never needed to ask for assistance before and didn’t even know where to start. So we were able to walk alongside people as they went through the process of getting help,” she explained.

What do you consider your greatest virtue?

My greatest virtue is love for my family. I’m very proud of my family and the great adults that they have all become. I also love my community.

What do you most deplore in others?

Interruptions. People interrupting and not letting others complete their sentences and train of thought.

What do you like most about living in Johnson County?

I love the collaboration. When you look at the communities, we have different community types. I love the variety of the towns that all bring different aspects to our overall Johnson County community.

If you had to live somewhere else besides Johnson County, where would it be?

Panama City Beach

If you could begin life over, what would you change?

Nothing! Even in the good and the difficult situations, I have learned from the difficult situations that would prepare me for other difficult situations.

If money were no issue, how would you spend it?

That’s a hard question because I would develop a spreadsheet and figure out how much I can live on, how much I can give back to my community and how much I can give to my family.

What makes you happiest?

Being around my family.

What is your favorite vacation spot?

Dale Hollow Lake and Panama City Beach. See a theme here? I love the water!

What do you do with idle time?

I love landscaping and planting flowers.

What is it that makes you angry?

Lack of respect and empathy for others.

What do you do to escape from reality?

Lay mulch!

What/who is the greatest love of your life?

My children

Which living person in Johnson County do you most admire?

There are too many to name one! I have had so many mentors and people who have guided me through this process. I don’t do this alone.

What is the quality you most like in a person?

Their ability to be empathetic and to understand where the other person is coming from.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Owning a boat several years ago.

What are your fears/phobias?

Something happening to my children.

What has been the happiest time of your life?

The birth of all my children.

Which talent would you most like to possess?

The talent to every day show others my faith.

What do you most value in your friends?

Their time

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Paul (from the Bible)

What is your greatest regret?

An ongoing difficulty of balancing serving my community and serving my family.

What tenet do you live by?

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The golden rule!