Hamilton Proper Resident and Kids Voice of Indiana CEO Eddie Rivers (Video)
Talking to Eddie Rivers is easy. A “military brat” who grew up all over the U.S. (and even spent 7 years in Germany), Rivers makes friends fast.
“I was born in Connecticut and raised all over,” said the Hamilton Proper resident whose full name is Eddie L. Rivers, Jr., after his father, who was a 30-year career officer. “You either made friends fast or you had none.”
He went to 12 schools in 12 years, then moved from the West Coast to the East Coast as he attended college at West Point and then grad school at the University of South Carolina. It’s no surprise he has friends everywhere.
“I feel at home wherever I am,” he says.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://youtube.com/v/tpi6Xg-Rvhk" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]It’s that friendly and inviting charisma that makes Rivers a natural salesman. In addition to running two successful private firms, Rivers is president and CEO of Kids Voice of Indiana, a not-for-profit organization that serves as an advocate for Indiana children who are going through the court system.
It may surprise you, then, to hear Eddie say: “I’m not a natural not-for-profit guy.” To understand, you must go back to 2003 – a year that will always stand out in Eddie’s life.
Up to that point, everything Eddie touched seemed to turn to gold. His career as a high-level salesman with IBM had naturally progressed into being named vice president and National Sales Manager for IBM’s largest agent firm and largest business partner, respectively—eventually leading to the opportunity for Rivers to start his own firm, selling IBM software and providing staffing to large companies nationwide.
Then suddenly his career, finances and self-image took a hit when he and his business partner abruptly split in 2003, leaving Rivers depressed and anxious about his future.
“For years I thought I was invincible,” Eddie said with a subtle smile as we chatted at the Hawthorn’s Country Club. “I was full of pride and full of vigor. Whatever I did was always positive, always growth.”
Eddie can smile now because he sees how that jarring experience changed his life for the better. It led him to reach out to his church, Holy Spirit at Geist, and to get more deeply involved with Kids Voice. He also gained strength from the support of his family – his wife of 21 years, Jennifer, and their three children: Cody, 20 (a Purdue University student who is following in Dad’s footsteps as vice president of one of Rivers’ firms); Cameron, 18 (a HSE senior who is one of the best dancers in the nation); and Cassidy, 10 (a Brooks School Elementary student who enjoys art and acting).
Always one who had given generously to his church and other worthy causes, Eddie didn’t know what to do when his income drastically plunged in 2003. He says when he asked God how he could continue giving, the answer was crystal clear: “Give your time.”
Eddie became a “Stephen” minister at Holy Spirit, assisting the priest and leading mass. Early in 2004, he also agreed to temporarily take over the helm at Kids Voice, an organization he had served on the board of directors for since 1996. Somehow his six-month stint as interim CEO turned into a permanent post. He just couldn’t leave.
“What we do there is so critical, I found myself driven to it more and more,” Eddie explained. “Daily we help save kids.”
He put his sales experience to work for Kids Voice and with great support from the current staff (Bethanne Gruner, Shane Harley, Derelle Watson-Duvall, Saundria Bordone and Clare Deitchman), lifted it from a financially strapped organization to a thriving one that is well-respected and utilized by judges and lawyers throughout the state. The organization not only represents the child’s best interest in court, it also operates an online clearinghouse of all Indiana laws dealing with children.
Eddie describes his relationship with Kids Voice as an “ongoing love affair.” Luckily, his wife isn’t jealous. As owner of Turning Pointe Academy of Dance, Jennifer offers scholarships to many Kids Voice children who otherwise would never have such an opportunity.
“The cases we have are heart-wrenching,” Eddie says. “We kind of adopt some of those kids as part of our family.”
Eddie stays in weekly contact with the four children who were his first case with Kids Voice in 2004. They went from living in a Chicago ghetto with an unfit mother to being adopted by a caring Lawrence Township woman in her 50s.
“I don’t want to get them to safety and then abandon them,” Eddie said.
Eddie continues to testify regularly in court on behalf of Indiana kids, and he uses his sales background to “sell” Kids Voice to large firms seeking a good cause for their charitable dollars. His personal firms – Esource Resources and Rivers Resources – also heavily support Kids Voice.
“As God blessed me, my other firms grew a lot, so what I want to do is give back a lot of these profits to Kids Voice,” he said.
His staff is in the process of moving Kids Voice from Binford Boulevard to the Fort Harrison area, where a larger facility right next to Turning Pointe will provide more space for non-custodial parents to have supervised visitation with their children. His private firms are helping underwrite the move and paying a portion of the rent. The new Kids Voice office is slated to open at 9150 Harrison Park Court (Suite C) in June.
To learn more about Kids Voice, visit www.kidsvoicein.org.