Cynder Sinclair is well known in Santa Barbara’s nonprofit circles, having arrived in town more than 25 years ago to run the regional chapter of the Girl Scouts, then serving as CEO of the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics and Community Action of Ventura County. Amid all that, Sinclair started a consulting service called Nonprofit Kinect, and discusses nonprofits through an online column and on a community access TV show.
Now she’s also an author, having just published My Wild and Precious Life: A Memoir of Joy, Grief, and Adventures. Sinclair told us more about her life and her book recently.
Where are you from originally, and when did you arrive here?
I was born in Selma, Alabama, 75 years ago. We moved to Manhattan Beach when I was in 3rd grade, so I grew up in the South Bay, although we moved back and forth from California to Upstate New York every two years through high school. I live in Santa Barbara on the Riviera today, and moved here in 1995 to take the CEO job with Girl Scouts of the Central Coast.
How did you start in the nonprofit sector?
My career in nonprofits started quite by accident when I was raising my five children in the San Joaquin Valley. I founded two nonprofits to meet the needs of farmworker families in the late 1970s; both won first place national awards from World Vision International for the most enterprising ministry to the poor in the country.
Why did you decide to write a memoir?
Just before the pandemic began, I facilitated the board planning retreat for the S.B. Genealogy Society. During that time, I became interested in the idea of finding out about my lineage. However, I didn’t have any information about who my birth father was.
I met a professional genealogist at that board retreat, and she ended up finding my father using just DNA. It was pretty amazing. And that process made me realize that it would be great for me to provide a life history for my five children, 13 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.
I met the man who became my editor, David Wilk, quite by accident and he encouraged me to write my memoirs and helped me plan and organize it.
What are some of the more meaningful or exciting episodes that you recount in the book?
There are so many stories in the book — of all sorts. One story tells about how I bamboozled the FBI (they wanted me to testify against someone in court but I was able to convince them they didn’t want me by channeling Gracie Allen). There is another story about how I was almost arrested by Homeland Security when I was serving for six months as interim CEO for Girl Scouts in South and North Dakota. (I am still very lucky that I was not arrested).
Of course, there are stories about how I founded nonprofits and provided leadership to others; stories about raising five children from when I was 19 years old; the story about how I found my father at 75 years old; and lots of stories about the 27 countries my partner and I visited in the last five years.
What do you hope readers take away from the book?
I hope readers come away with a sense of possibilities for their own lives. (Sort of like, “If she can do it, I can do it.”) And I hope they come away with an increased understanding of the importance of resilience.
Finally, I hope they begin to think about writing their own memoirs. The last chapter has 10 life lessons I learned over the years, and I hope the reader benefits from this.