Lori Palmer is all about finding solutions, which has led to a lifetime of public service and nonprofit leadership as a social change agent.
While she has a lengthy list of achievements, one that stands out for her is working with the LGBT community as the HIV/AIDS epidemic swept through Dallas in the 1980s. During a time when the disease inspired fear and gay men were often viewed with suspicion, she provided leadership in the development of a citywide strategy and program to address the needs of those suffering and often dying from the disease.
Her desire to improve the lives of others came in part from her time at MHS, where she gained an appreciation for different places, cultures and people from her geography teachers. Her value of other cultures solidified during her American Field Service (AFS) year in Brazil, and her sense of activism was stirred by political movements of that time.
"The civil rights movement and the Vietnam War protests showed me the importance of individual and collective action and how it can ensure that our core values and principals are not denied," Lori says.
After graduating from the University of Minnesota College of Education in 1970, one of her early efforts was as a VISTA member in Austin, Texas.
"I joined VISTA in order to learn more about diverse neighborhoods," she says. "I wanted to understand different points of view, so I could be a more effective leader."
She moved to Dallas in the early '70s and lived in a vintage neighborhood near downtown for 26 years with her husband Russ Jewert.
In Dallas, she started out as director of a Head Start Center in a predominately Hispanic community in West Dallas. She earned a master's in social work from the University of Texas at Arlington with an emphasis on community planning and nonprofit administration. She was the first Executive Director of the North Texas Food Bank, which provided food to pantries in the Dallas metropolitan area and eventually expanded to reach 19 counties. She served as an interim Executive Director for several nonprofits undergoing leadership change, and, most recently, she led Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas, an after school and summer program for low-income girls.
In the midst of all this, she founded and led a volunteer coalition of Dallas neighborhoods impacted by airport noise. She served on the Dallas City Council from 1985-1993, representing the city's most culturally diverse district. On the council, she chaired the Housing, Health and Human Services Committee and the Domestic Violence Task Force.
She and her husband also founded what is now the Big Bend Conservancy, raising more than $3.2 million for park projects. In 2001, she founded an animal rescue and adoption program and currently cares for 50 rescued cats and dogs on their rural property named Earthwhispers.
She has received several awards over her career, including the University of Texas at Arlington Distinguished Alumni Award and the Maura Award from the Dallas Women's Center.