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Staff Spotlight: Rimmerman Builds Relationships By Focusing on Basics

by Amelia Flood on 07/09/2018

Whether it’s sharing coffee with local women in Central American communities or helping folks get a fresh start with new furniture, for Rachel Rimmerman, building relationships and making people feel at home have been at the heart of her personal and professional lives.

Rachel Rimmerman
Rachel Rimmerman has spent her professional career and personal time connecting with others through her work with campus and local aid groups. Submitted photo

Rimmerman, event and outreach coordinator for Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology at Saint Louis University, spends her time connecting with others through her work with both campus and local aid groups. She is a technical mentor with SLU’s Billikens for Clean Water, a student group collaborating with Mayan communities in Belize to focus on clean, safe drinking water access. Since 2015, Rimmerman has also been on the development committee for Home Sweet Home STL, an agency that provides furniture and household items to people transitioning out of homelessness into new, stable home lives.

Serving others was instilled in her by her parents while growing up in Kansas City, Rimmerman said, and “it’s been something that’s been instilled in me my whole life.”

“I think there are a lot of inequities, both internationally and in our own community, and that there are so many things that you can contribute to and give your resources to.”

Following college, Rimmerman lived and worked in Honduras, coordinating programs for Global Brigades, Inc. She focused on rural water projects, managing international groups of volunteers as well as building relationships with community members. She’d been drawn to the region as an undergrad when she and a friend volunteered in neighboring Nicaragua on a local water effort.

“We just fell in love with it,” she recalled.

Rachel Rimmerman working on water project

Rimmerman spent years in Honduras focused on rural water projects, managing international groups of volunteers as well as building relationships with community members. Submitted photo

After her time in Honduras, Rimmerman moved to St. Louis, working in nonprofit development before joining SLU – and Home Sweet Home – three years ago. She continued volunteering, both on the water issues that had drawn her to Central America, and to helping others make homes for themselves.

She’s been drawn to the missions of groups like Home Sweet Home and Billikens for Clean Water because she’s seen the difference having access to things many people take for granted has for those who have gone without them. Rimmerman cites her experiences with families coming to Home Sweet Home’s furniture facility and showroom as one example.

“It’s been eye-opening these last few years – to see the number of kids in our own neighborhoods who don’t have beds,” she explained. Home Sweet Home has created a furniture-showroom setting for its donated items and strives to provide people with an experience similar to any other furniture buying trip. The agency’s goal is to give families and clients a sense of pride and anticipation as they step into their new homes.

Rimmerman with volunteers for Home Sweet Home
Rimmerman and other volunteers with Home Sweet Home STL move furniture and manage a showroom where clients transitioning to new housing can pick up what they need to make their new dwellings home. Submitted photo

“They deserve to be proud,” Rimmerman explained, noting that many clients have encountered significant obstacles from leaving abusive domestic situations to overcoming substance abuse issues. “They get to have the experience of being excited to pick out a new couch.”

Through her work at SLU and in her spare time serving, Rimmerman noted that relationships remained at the center of her passions.

“I really believe in the importance of just being human with other humans,” she continued “It’s amazing what you can learn simply by building relationships with other people in a true spirit of mutuality. There is a quote I always go back to by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano, ‘I don’t believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical, so it’s humiliating; it goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It learns from the other and respects the other. I have a lot to learn from other people.’”

Rimmerman and other volunteers help someone move in

Rimmerman and other volunteers help move a client's new furniture. Submitted photo

Staff Spotlight is an occasional series dedicated to revealing the stories behind the name badges of SLU's staff members. To suggest a staff member to shine a light on, contact Newslink or call 314-977-2519.