Meet a Member: Deb Umberger

Deb Umberger

Deb Umberger on NFPW conference post-tour schooner excursion of Charleston Harbor in Charleston, S.C.

One of the advantages of NFPW pre and post tours is a chance to get to know members in a smaller group. I got to know Deb Umberger better on the Utah conference post-tour to the Moab, Utah area. It was a fun trip with a great group of people. I found she is a fun, talented and hard working member. She is another unique and unbelievable member I am glad to be able to call a friend.

Name: Deb Umberger

City and state: Wichita, Kansas

Affiliate and any leadership positions:

Wichita Professional Communicators:  scholarship chairwoman and president. I currently serve on the WPC board as past-president.

Kansas Professional Communicators: scholarship chairwoman. I have served as an appointed officer on the KPC board.

Years a member of NFPW: I’ve been a member for a while but am not sure how long. I may have started out as a local-only member of Wichita Professional Communicators.

WPC is the only local affiliate of Kansas Professional Communicators in the state of Kansas. WPC has more than 60 members and is a vibrant NFPW affiliate group. Local membership is a great way for potential members to join and get their feet wet. Local members are encouraged to consider full membership in KPC and NFPW so that they may enter contest and attend our state and national conferences at a reduced fee. WPC hosts monthly luncheon meetings at a lovely restaurant with guest speaker presentations on topics of interest to communicators. We also sponsor an annual wine and hors d’oeuvres mixer to raise funds for scholarships. We offer a scholarship competition for students majoring in communications at one of three local universities and a community college.

Deb Umberger, left, and Karen Jesse of Delaware Press Assn. in downtown Greenville, S.C., at the 2014 NFPW conference. Deb and Karen met in 2013 when they took “pot luck” for roommates for the NFPW conference post tour in Moab, Utah. They became good friends and roomed together again at the 2014 conference in Greenville, S.C.

Deb Umberger, left, and Karen Jesse of Delaware Press Assn. in downtown Greenville, S.C., at the 2014 NFPW conference. Deb and Karen met in 2013 when they took “pot luck” for roommates for the NFPW conference post tour in Moab, Utah. They became good friends and roomed together again at the 2014 conference in Greenville, S.C.

Tell us a little about you:

I came to the communications field through the back door. I’ve always liked to write and took as many English classes as I could in high school and college. My initial career goal was to be a counselor so I earned a degree in psychology from the University of Nebraska.  After college, I worked as a probation officer with the state district court. After getting married, I moved and began working for a hospital as an addictions counselor and program coordinator, and later a health promotions program coordinator. I did a lot of writing in both positions and ended up working for the Public Affairs and Marketing Department at the hospital.

I took about a 15-year hiatus from paid employment to raise my three children. My husband died suddenly when they were very young, so “soccer mom” became my full-time job title. We were living in Wichita by the time I returned to work when they were old enough to be at home alone after school without burning the house down. I worked for a succession of three nonprofits where I did communications and public relations. Due to budget cuts at my last employer brought on by an out-of-control governor, I was laid off two years ago. Since then I have enjoyed being retired. I’ve had requests to do some freelance writing — and plenty of requests to do it for free — but for the most part I’ve remained happily deadline free. 

Career advice:

Don’t waste too much time working in a toxic environment. You may have to stick it out for a while for financial reasons, but if you’re talented and have a good work ethic there are places to work where you will be appreciated.

Talent I’d most like to have:

I would love to be a dancer. Every time I attend a musical or dance performance, I wish I could be onstage with the dancers.

Where would I most like to live?

I could be happy living in a lot of places. Locations with beaches, warm weather, interesting culture, mountains, or traditional architecture all appeal to me. Last fall when I went on the NFPW post tour to Charleston, South Carolina, I totally fell in love with the city. It was tempting to just cash in my return airline ticket and stay there. Wherever I live, it’s most important to me to live within a day’s drive of my kids.

Deb Umberger and friend in downtown Greenville, SC, at the 2014 NFPW conference.

Deb Umberger and friend in downtown Greenville, SC, at the 2014 NFPW conference.

What book are you reading?

One of the joys of being retired is that I can stay up late reading novels. I recently finished “The Light Between Oceans” by M.L. Stedman and “Ordinary Grace” by William Kent Kruger. I just started reading John Grisham’s “Gray Mountain.”

At our WPC meetings we have drawings for gently used books donated by our members, to help raise money for our scholarship program. I get some good books there for the price of a couple of one dollar raffle tickets. Recently I won a book called “Attachments” by Rainbow Rowell. Rowell is an author from Omaha, where I used to live. The book was funny and fun to read since it was set in Omaha.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I’m related to Greta Garbo.

Also, I was locked in a jail cell once but, honestly, I was not the inmate. When I was a probation officer I went to visit a kid who was being held in a single cell because he was a juvenile. The jailer admitted me to the cell, said to knock on the door when I was finished, and slammed it shut. I’m quite sure this was not approved procedure. The kid was skinny and hung over and shorter than I was, so I figured I could beat him in a fist fight if it became necessary.

Why is your affiliate and NFPW important to you?

Writing can be a rather solitary occupation and I’ve always been a one-person communications department. Being able to associate with others who do the same kind of work has been so helpful. Being a member of NFPW and its local affiliates puts me in the company of experienced, smart, supportive, savvy people from whom I’ve learned a great deal. Membership has also given me opportunities to serve in leadership positions. I’ve made many friends through my association with NFPW and its Kansas affiliate group. Best of all, I’ve had a lot of fun attending WPC’s luncheons and fundraising mixers, and KPC’s and NFPW’s conferences. Despite being retired, I look forward to continuing to participate in all three groups.

Way to follow me? I’m on Facebook, using the name Deb Leffler Umberger

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