Derek Jensen

Steph Ferguson

Derek Jensen
Steph Ferguson

Meet Steph

Take us back to you as a kid.

I’ll be the first to admit it, I was an extreme dork. My younger sister and I spent a lot of time outside exploring. Growing up we had a creek in the backyard, so we were always coming home muddy. Besides causing trouble, I always loved to laugh. I’m thankful that my dorky humor has followed me into my adulthood – it helps to remind me that life isn’t so serious.

What's keeping you busy?

During the day, I am the digital coordinator for HCI Care Services, Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa and Amanda the Panda, so I handle all things digital advertising, social media, and websites. I am an active board member of two nonprofit groups, AIGA Iowa and YNPN Des Moines. In addition to the copious amounts of fun events and meetings I’m involved in, I have a 3-year-old border collie who loves to keep me on my toes.

"Do your research and follow your heart."

Walk us through the Art of Compassion Project. How did it get its start and what do you expect to see from the project?

The Art of Compassion project is a new annual signature event started by HCI Hospice Care Services, Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa, and Amanda the Panda Family Grief Center. These organizations I am involved in offer services to over 60,000 Iowans per year. We have incorporated an interactive art piece, the “Before I Die…” walls, to encourage public participation. The walls invite people to reflect on their lives and share their hopes and dreams.

Working with an organization that provides care in all stages of life has really helped open my eyes to realize that death isn’t something to be afraid of. I hope this project will help bring to light that compassion for others is important, and it will help to unite people through empathy.
 

What have been the challenges? Who and what has helped?

The biggest challenge has been bringing death to the forefront of peoples’ minds. This project is encouraging people to really dig deep in their souls to share what life means to them and to let people realize they are not alone. We have an amazing committee comprised of staff members and influencers throughout the Des Moines community that have helped bring this project to life. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to continue helping as many Iowans as we do per year.

Someone is starting a project for the first time, what would you want to say to them?

Do your research and follow your heart. Someone will always tell you all the things that could go wrong, but what if all the things go right? It’s better to try than to live life wondering, ‘what if?’.

Why Des Moines?

I was born and raised in Des Moines. Growing up I always wanted to move away – why would you want to live in the same town forever, right? Shortly after graduating college I moved to Omaha for a couple years, only to find myself back here in Des Moines. I’ve been back for a year now and DSM has changed tremendously in just that short period of time. There’s never a shortage of opportunities. You can do anything you put your mind to.

Des Moines is growing. What’s one new thing that caught your eye?

All of the new local businesses! It’s so much fun and I always prefer to shop and eat locally if I can. Around all of downtown there are so many unique shops, restaurants and bars. Des Moines is actually a great spot to have out-of-town visitors now! 

"You truly can do anything you want to do in Des Moines, all while being supported by people in the city."

If you could grant Des Moines one wish what would it be and why?
The gift of slowing down. The city has so many amazing things and so often I feel like people don’t take the time to appreciate what is around them.

Convince someone new to DSM your favorite place to go on your day off.

La Mie – hands down. For anyone who hasn’t experienced the fullness of that bakery counter when you first enter in, it’s life-changing. Get two chocolate pastries and you’ll be in heaven the rest of the day. The coffee is also great, too. You can easily catch a couple peaceful moments out on the patio.

The most underrated thing in DSM is the people. There are so many fantastic people doing so many amazing things. You truly can do anything you want to do in Des Moines, all while being supported by people in the city.
 

What are you most proud of and why?

I am most proud of finding my own way. My degree is in food science, and while I was a food writer for a short stint of time, I really found where my passion is and pursued it. I’ve taken every opportunity that has come my way, and seen each experience as a chance to grow. While I may not have any idea where I’m going next, I’m really happy where I’m at now.

"I’ve taken every opportunity that has come my way, and seen each experience as a chance to grow."

In three months what do you hope to accomplish?

Growing up I used to think three months was such a long amount of time – newsflash, it’s not. I have a few certifications I’m working to get, so I would like to get those accomplished by the end of 2017. In terms of the Art of Compassion project, our celebration event is in October, so I’m looking forward to helping our team create a successful event so we can continue making an impact in the lives of those in Iowa who are less fortunate.
 

What’s one thing people need to know you really care about?

I really care about leaving the world better than I found it. Also, I really love animals, but that’s no surprise to most people who know me. 

Photo credit: Janelle Ketcher