Tag Archives: Kiem Ho

Cardboard City Constructed


Kiem Ho, Class 26
Director of Business Development & Innovation, Laundry Care, Henkel Consumer Goods, Inc.

On a cool October 26th night, I camped out with my 3 elementary-aged children under the stars.  However, instead of sleeping in a cozy tent under the stars in the forest, we were camped out in our own make-shift and I may add drafty (I guess duct tape can’t fix everything) cardboard box home situated under the dim lights of Scottsdale Stadium.  My family was not alone as 350 other people also camped out in their own constructed cardboard boxes that ranged from the elaborate such as a castle with a functioning drawbridge to a simple box that was opened on both ends.  This “campout” was part of Family Promise’s second annual event called Cardboard City, an event which helped bring awareness to a growing problem in our community- family homelessness.

photo 2I participated in Cardboard City not only due to being a board member of Family Promise but also because of my association with the Scottsdale Leadership Board, which came to support this community need.  Pattie Counce (Board President), Carol Damaso (President Elect), Suzanne Paetzer, Tom Billard, Kevin Donovan, Mike Merucci along with Chris Irish (Executive Director) were instrumental in volunteering and in securing products from Forever Living and Henkel Consumer Goods that were packed throughout the night making up 1,000 hygiene kits.

Ultimately, Cardboard City successfully raised $40,000 (net) with significant support from Mark-Taylor Inc., which also donated a year of free rent for 2 families.  Local media covered the event bringing needed awareness to this issue.  The potential effect of this kind of community support was best summarized by a recent graduate of the Family Promise program who highlighted how Family Promise not only gave her family shelter but also the loving support necessary to move beyond homelessness.  This single mother is currently enrolled in law school.

photo 5At the end of the night, I was glad to know that my box sleeping days were temporary.  Unfortunately, this is not the case for many families which have to endure homeless nights uncertain for how long.  I’m thankful that Scottsdale Leadership could join with Family Promise and others to make a difference for homeless families in our community.  Find out how you can make a difference by visiting:  familypromiseaz.org.


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Reflections of a Scottsdale Leadership Graduate

Arizona Leadership ProgramKiem Ho, Class 26
Director of Business Development & Innovation, Laundry Care, Henkel Consumer Goods, Inc.

The Class 26 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s core program. The program informs, inspires and empowers leaders to champion and strengthen the interests of the community.

Do you remember those end of the year High School days where you and your friends would get together reminiscing on their year prior to the summer and the next school year?  Perhaps you exchanged yearbooks where friends often write to one another with the best of intentions of staying connected ending with the hopeful invitation of keeping in touch (KIT):

Having you in my 5th period Biology class was a blast this year.  Mrs/Mr “substitute a High School teacher’s name here” was a drag so thanks for getting me through.  Hope to have you in a class next year and have a great summer… KIT.

Or perhaps it was after a graduation, where friends would write wistful phrases wishing all the best to classmates who would soon be embarking on the next stage of life experiences believing they could tackle the world:

Can’t believe we graduated!? Can’t believe 4 years went by so quickly.  It was a blast having you in classes this year and I’m so sad we are not going to the same “XYZ College”.  You will do great at “XYZ college” so I expect you to remember me when you are rich and famous and remember…to KIT!

At the risk of seeming potentially sappy, becoming a Scottsdale Leadership Class 26 graduate reminded me a little about my High School days.  Instead of a yearbook reflection, our Class 26 went through reflection exercises with music softly playing in the background.  “The Power of Reflection and Self-Awareness” exercise preceded “The Power of Intention: Your Personal Commitment” where we reflected on our nine months of discovery of the Scottsdale Community and ourselves.  At our graduation at Talking Stick, a fine event I might add, conversations would often meander into the topics of our desires to stay in touch and what we would do next after graduation.

What would WE do next?  Will one of us run for public office after the informative city and state government days?  Will one of us help provide leadership for one of the human services that are in such great need in our community?  Maybe someone will take on helping the many art-centric organizations that make up a vital part of Scottsdale.  Education day opened up my eyes about how we as a community can help our schools succeed if only we actively engage to help support.  I could go on and on about the merits of each class day but would be remiss if I were not to mention the Pay it Forward (PPIF) projects which were the capstone of our class involvement.  The PPIF projects demonstrated how each of us as leaders, informed, inspired, and empowered were able to champion and I believe strengthen the interests of the community through our specific projects that included music, gardens, dance, food and dreams.  Without even knowing the specifics about these projects one can imagine how these beautiful things could enhance our community.

Well, I am towards the end of my blog…500 word limit 🙂 Nevertheless, I didn’t really hold to that too well during the class year so I’ll close by referring back to those High School days in saying, I hope that our Scottsdale Class 26 and any past class for that matter has not only better intentions but better commitment than we did back in our High School years.  Knowing the caliber of the graduates I’ve been honored to get to know from mine and other classes, I believe we will stay engaged.  Scottsdale Leadership graduates have gone on and done amazing things and I would not expect anything less from my class and future ones as well.

The question is what will we do with this wealth of information?  I can’t wait to hear from others what they are doing or plan on doing and I almost forgot…  It was a blast having you all in class this year, have a great rest of your summer and please don’t forget to KIT…I mean it!

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Scottsdale Public Safety

Kiem Ho, Class 26
Director of Business Development & Innovation, Laundry Care, Henkel Consumer Goods, Inc.

The Class 26 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s core program. The program informs, inspires and empowers leaders to champion and strengthen the interests of the community.

There is no one marketing tactic that delivers 100% loyalty! In my 15 years of Brand Marketing, I’ve come to understand that no matter how good or even perfect my product may be, there will always be those that don’t care, that don’t like it or even hate it.  100% loyalty may be impossible but what is ultimately important is whether those that care for your brand outweigh those that detract.

During Public Safety Day, I could not help but take away the need for increased Public Safety brand loyalty.  Elements of this need can be found in the language of the day’s objectives:

  • Identify the major divisions of public safety in Scottsdale
  • Identify three critical issues (public needs and resources) facing each major division
  • Participate in training exercises to build empathy for public safety providers
  • Identify personal role in, and make personal commitment to, develop safe communities
  • Engage in an effective conversation regarding implications of the public safety trends for leadership in Scottsdale

Chief of Police Alan Rodbell, Class 19 and Fire Chief Garret Olson shared how both of their departments have been able to maintain and even increase the quality of their services in spite of the declining economy and consequent budgets cuts.  Specifically, technology and award winning strategic planning has enabled the police department to efficiently allocate officers to calls.

Similarly, the fire department has been able to increase staffing and add more stations over the past 3 years resulting in an overall response time of 4min 17s while at the same time reducing costs by 16.9%.   These figures are astounding when one considers that the fire department is the 1st respondent for all out of hospital paramedic care.

In addition to awareness, we had a small taste of the dangers our men and women in uniform potentially face every day when we participated in the Firearms Training Simulator where split decisions determine life or death.  We also practiced fire extinguishing and search and rescue, decked out in full gear including heavy oxygen tanks.  Given the adrenaline induced trembling that several of us experienced, it is safe to say that we all gained a deeper appreciation for those that work so hard to protect us.

Despite the increased understanding we took away from Public Safety day, I realized that the majority of the work that our Public Safety departments accomplish goes and even is meant to go unnoticed.  It is in the quietness of anonymity that the men and women of the Scottsdale Police and Fire Department toil on our behalf.   American Jewish Author Cynthia Ozick penned, “When something does not insist on being noticed, when we aren’t grabbed by the collar or struck on the skull by a presence or an event, we take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”

As a community, we enjoy a very high level of care from our Police and Fire Departments.  Despite this high level of quality service, there will always be those that nay say and complain oftentimes without all the facts.  Nevertheless, brand loyalty is ultimately determined about caring.  Chief Garret Olson put it best stating the mission of the Fire Department, “We Care For You”.

Do we as informed community leaders also have an obligation to return that “Care” for those that serve us so well? If we fail to demonstrate and even advocate loyalty for the care that we receive, will we risk  eventually losing the care we take for granted?

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To the back of the plane with Youth Issues

Kiem Ho, Class 26
Director of Business Development & Innovation, Laundry Care, Henkel Consumer Goods, Inc.

The Class 26 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s core program. The program informs, inspires and empowers leaders to champion and strengthen the interests of the community.

Parking lot traffic, pushing and shoving, indifferent and rude airline employees and don’t forget the crying babies make short flights seem like transatlantic treks. Thanksgiving travel can accentuate the worse in people jockeying for even the slimmest of services abandoning the old adage,” women and children first.” Unfortunately, this bad behavior has spilled over into non-Holiday occasions.

Airlines for example are creating “baby ghettos” in the back of the plane seemingly quarantining families from higher paying passengers according to a recent November Wall Street Journal report. In the search of profits amid shrinking budgets, airlines indiscriminately separate small children as young as 3 years old from parents to satisfy adult passengers.

Forgetting and neglecting youth is something not only common to air travel. During our Scottsdale Leadership Youth Issue Day, we learned that youth programs are not as strong as they once were. Early Literacy Programs, First Things First, After School Programs, Peer Teen Mentoring, Mentoring, Teen Employment Services and Teen Suicide Hotline.

All of the above youth issues were presented with passion and fervent invitations for involvement. At the end of the day, our class divided into groups with the hypothetical challenge of prioritizing how we would support each issue. This was done with surprising efficiency and consistency given we did this without any rebuttal from the respective youth issue experts.

So, the thought kept nagging me, what right do we have after only perfunctory discussion to prioritize anything? Our decisions were based on our best rationale. However, would we have decided differently with each youth subject matter expert present? Better yet, would we have decided differently if one of our own children was directly affected by one of these areas?

Eman Yarrow, Regional Director of NE Maricopa from First things First, put it best when he said that “Politicians probably do not support youth issues because youth do not vote”. To this, I would add that today’s youth are not a huge source for political campaigns either. No wonder youth programs are usually the first to go when it comes to budget cuts.

Being a father of three children, I understand that we can easily default to the airline MO of banishing youth issues to the “back of the plane” hoping they sort themselves out. I’ve learned from real life experience that putting off dealing with children issues at hand usually compound the problem later on.

So I ask, what are you willing to give and/or do to restore the support of our youth in Scottsdale for a better future? We, like the Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon, probably would give anything to be able to drink from that mystical fountain that restores our youth. Yet we have forgotten how much help we needed when we were young. There is so much need. For example, volunteers, particularly male role models are needed for Big Brothers Big Sisters and Phoenix Youth At Risk. There are many more organizations that need help but only you can decide.

Are youth programs in our community vital? Why or why not ?

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They say you never get a chance to make a first impression…

Kiem Ho, Class 26
Director of Business Development & Innovation,
Laundry Care, Henkel Consumer Goods, Inc.

The Class 26 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s core program. The program informs, inspires and empowers leaders to champion and strengthen the interests of the community.

I have a problem with the ever seeming permanence of the “first impression”.  If life ran only on first impressions, how misguided and short would this run be?  Take me for instance, when I, seated at the back of a large congregation, saw my future wife giving a discourse from the pulpit, I immediately turned to my friend and shared my first impression: “That Caroline is pretty but she is way too serious, I would never date a girl like that”.  I cannot fathom how less complete my life would have been had my first impression not turned out so wrong.  Similarly, Scottsdale Leadership Social Services Day for Class 26 provided us all with the opportunity to build upon our respective first impressions.

Social Services Day started out with:

  • Learning the seemingly paradoxical topic of homelessness in our beautiful city from the executive director of St Joseph the Worker.  I was surprised to find how much homelessness affected everyday families. And did you know the average age of a homeless person is 9 years old.  
  • Discovering from staff who work at Vista del Camino,that poverty hits close to home with 18.6% or 1.2 million Arizonans living below the poverty line.
  • Finding out what a gem we have in the Granite Reef Senior Center! It is world renowned for its leading edge sustainable architecture and its efforts to assist seniors in getting access to disability and food benefits in a timelier manner.

As our social schooling continued, I could not help but reflect upon how incomplete my first impression was of the various social issues.  Homelessness and poverty were things that happen to “them” or that “they” had to deal with.  Instead, I learned that these issues can and do happen to “us” and that “we” ought to deal with it.  80% of homeless people don’t stand at the corner with a cardboard sign which is our first impression. They are like you and me and for whatever reason (loss of employment, death of a breadwinner, medical issue, etc); find themselves without a place to turn and without a voice to be heard.  They become the Silent Majority or even an Invisible Nation.

By the end of the day I was a bit overwhelmed.  Human services needs in Scottsdale seem insatiable when it comes to needing greater awareness, funding, engagement and even time to deal with them all.  We role-played as Human Service Commissioners and even in the short period of time a healthy appreciation of the demands and difficulty in generating funds was evident to our class.

As class 26 continues to debunk our first impressions around the issues that face Scottsdale, I hope that we can internalize “them” so that “they” become personal and our issues.  I believe our class can and will build more positive lasting impression from our experiences.

Nevertheless, how far reaching will our efforts be?  Can our efforts effectively change the many more incomplete “first impressions” out there?  I don’t know.  Do you?

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Community, leadership and a jar of jellybeans

Kiem Ho, Class 26
Director of Business Development & Innovation, Laundry Care, Henkel Consumer Goods, Inc.

The Class 26 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s core program. The program informs, inspires and empowers leaders to champion and strengthen the interests of the community.

I asked my second grader to define community and he said it is a city where a lot of people live. He clarified that a lot is 2,000. To me, a couple thousand isn’t a lot, but when you think about it, for a 7-year old, 2,000 is huge. If you have ever seen the wild guesses that some children make when presented with an estimation jar full of jelly beans, you get this.

Here is an excerpt from a conversation with my son in front of such a jar in his class:

“Caleb, you sure you want to guess that?” I start. “Yes Dad”, Caleb confidently replies. “You know if you’re closest, you get the whole jar of jelly beans”, I say thinking the prize will motivate a higher number. “I knooooow Dad!” he says a little impatiently adding “65 is my answer”.

The jar has actually 1,222 jelly beans. Caleb and the rest of his class are disappointed because they all guessed way too few to win the jar. Maybe it is better this way. Can you imagine the shock of some unfortunate parent dealing with a child hyped up on sugar like some frenzied shark in chummed waters?
All is not lost; the silver lining in all of this is that the class divided up the jellybeans. More importantly, the class learned there is sometimes more than what they can see.

When it comes to communities, their success is more than the number of people that you see in them. Communities rarely come together spontaneously or without effort. This is where leadership plays a vital role in forging the connections that develop communities and make them strong. I’m not talking about the kind of leadership of one bigger than life character that can move the masses. Sometimes this happens. Rather, the leadership I am talking about comes from the small and simple actions in the daily lives of every man and woman who realize, “If it is to be it depends on me”.

For any community to develop and thrive, it is dependent on individuals taking personal responsibility and being accountable for making a difference. This leadership begins in families where the connections are obvious to broader communities that develop as individuals form connections in neighborhoods, schools and work. Whether the community is made up of 2, 65 or 2000, their success depends on the strength of each individual’s engagement.

Going back to my son, I also asked him what a leader is. He simply stated “Someone that is good.” To me, this means leadership is not a scarce commodity found only in a few. Instead, we can all be leaders if we take action to make a difference. Said a little differently by Edmund Burke, “All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men (I would add women) to do nothing.”

Is it too idealistic to believe that every person can be a leader in the community?


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