Perhaps no other person in the Kemin Industries family epitomizes the “Kemin cares” core value more than Mary Nelson, who co-founded the now global manufacturing company with her husband, R.W., in a vacant wool barn on Des Moines’ east side in 1961.
Mary has “done it all” at Kemin. Since 1975, she has supervised administrative staff; managed customer service, printing, and human resources; acted as a liaison with attorneys on legal matters; managed the Kemin trademark portfolio; served on the board of directors for Kemin and its affiliated family of companies; participated in strategic planning, budgeting, special projects and administrative decisions for U.S. and global companies; and assisted in the presentation of training programs for sales personnel worldwide.
“I’ve enjoyed and learned from each position I’ve held at Kemin,” Mary says. “I believe in the mission, values, and vision of the company. My personal goals are fulfilled through my work; I have achieved a standard of living that I enjoy; and I work with a group of people I admire, like, and consider my friends.”
With such a range of duties relating to the company’s overall health and wellbeing, Mary lovingly refers to Kemin as her and R.W.’s “sixth child.” The company is also an embodiment of the values the Nelsons instilled in their children, including a moral responsibility for corporate citizenship.
As a founding member of the Kemin Charitable Contributions Committee, and as the person directing Kemin’s philanthropy, much of Mary’s energy was spent guiding the company’s corporate giving. She was devoted to creating a culture that reaches out to the disadvantaged and those in distress, both locally and globally.
“We have a responsibility to return to our community and the world a portion of what we earn from our endeavors and that of the people who work with us,” Mary says.
When Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, Mary organized fundraising efforts to help residents living in the storm’s wake. At her urging, Kemin employees raised $30,000 to replace fishing boats lost to a tsunami that ravaged a village in India, where Kemin has a significant presence. In China, an important base for Kemin operations, Mary coordinated the company’s fundraising campaign to build a school, which was dedicated in 2009.
Since 1997, Kemin has budgeted money for charitable organizations and causes, especially those in which employees participate or have an interest. This gives employees strong incentive to “give back” — a value Mary has lived her entire life.
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