Master Story Tellers

Spend more than ten minutes with Bob and Jan Kazimour of Cedar Rapids and you’ll be laughing. They say a good narrative is a process of hook, line and sinker.  Bob offers the hook, Jan prompts the line and together they sink the punch line as they regale you with both grand and simple experiences from their lives. A good storyteller offers you an entry into the experience, and Bob does just that. It could be the one about pretending to be French speaking only on a challenging business trip or leaning into the aisle of an open air railroad car in South America to avoid scrapes from the machete-wielding Hondurans  swiping through the windows. While hearing about praying out loud crossing the Lower Aguan River on a rickety one-man rope bridge over numerous logs (better known as crocodiles), you are left breathless while Jan prompts Bob to ‘tell about when…”. Eyes dancing, they relive fabulous experiences in your presence.

Lives are enriched by telling and sharing stories. One of the greatest gifts you can give another is to listen to his or her story. That’s what Tanager Place does for children and Bob and Jan know that. Jan has served on the Tanager board for 35 consecutive years. Children and their stories are of great importance to her. She knows firsthand the impact Tanager Place has on helping children rewrite their stories of abuse, neglect, mental health challenges and trauma. Jan and Bob have been generous donors since 1989 because they know the power of a child telling his story to a trained therapist and then rewriting his future. New life skills are the hook, supportive counseling is a life line, and the sinker is family therapy. It’s a proven process and one Jan has seen provide remarkable results in a child’s life.

Philanthropy is also part of Bob and Jan’s life story. Many years ago, they named Tanager Place as a beneficiary on a second to die life insurance policy. Their estate plan has been continually refined to the point that our community will realize generous gifts to those organizations most special to this couple. But giving hasn’t all been planned for the future; their story includes giving now as well. It all started many years ago with a transformational gift for them: a pipe organ to their church in honor of Bob’s mother. A comment in her last days prompted Bob and Jan to figure out a way to make the gift that was beyond their means at the time. As they say, it was the beginning of finding ways to give both now and in the future to transform their community.  A second favorite story was taking discarded stones from the demolition site of the Children’s Home (previously part of Tanager Place) and using those to construct the large, impressive sign at the C Street Campus.  Capturing heritage, recycling precious materials and engaging an artist to complete the work was a fun, creative project for this couple and past CEO, George Estle.

Bob and Jan believe that all children have the right to tell their story. At Tanager Place a child can work on herself and emerge with a new narrative. A child can learn new ways of coping and reacting so that home life and school are successful stories again. The Kazimours have helped ensure that children far into the future will have a safe place to tell their story and work on a new one.  We’re grateful they’ve given a planned gift for future children. We love to see the Kazimours walk in the door; they’re a big part of the Tanager Place story – hook, line and sinker!

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