Martha Thieneman


Martha Thieneman


Readiness Center

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What Does Your Company/Organization Do?

The Readiness Center provides a variety of educational opportunities for families in Benton Harbor. We strive to deliver programs in a safe and nurturing environment where families can be successful together, building self-esteem and healthy family relationships. Our primary programs are: preschool/parent program, City Kids after-school program and a 50/50 teen work/mentor program.




After graduating from college, I worked as the Ticket Office Manager for the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center at the University of Notre Dame. While working at the University, I enrolled in their Masters of Nonprofit Administration program. Upon earning my degree, I began working at the Readiness Center in Benton Harbor. Over the course of my first 11 years I transitioned from fund development and special projects to assistant director. I just completed my first year as Executive Director. In 2014 I joined the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas as a lay Associate and serve on the Michigan Associate Council. In 2018 I was selected to participate in the Collaborative Leadership Development Program, an international program for women religious and associates/affiliates.

What else do you hope to accomplish by the age of 40?

I hope to build relationships in my community that foster understanding, growth, and a shared vision for the future.


  • I graduated from Lake Michigan Catholic High School in 1999.
  • In 2003 I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in International Business and Economics from Saint Mary’s College.
  • In 2008 I graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Administration, MNA.


St. Joseph, MI

Where were you born?

Evansville, IN

What was your first job?

My first job was as at Edgewater Gifts in downtown St. Joe. One of my favorite parts of the job was designing the Department 56 Christmas village display.

Best advice you ever got?

“Get the facts, make a plan, and don’t go it alone.” I’ve used this advice in so many areas of life and I still have to remind myself of it often.

Who inspires you most?

My 3 sisters. As mothers, educators, business leaders, and general “rockstars” they each inspire me in their own way to love fiercely, work hard, serve others, and enjoy life. Today’s youth/young adults also inspire me with their drive to make the world a better place. Their creativity and enthusiasm give me hope.

That one thing about you we’d be most surprised to learn.

Having grown up in the US, Canada, and Italy, at one point in time I could speak 4 languages. Now, I could get by in a pinch.

What do you love to do in your downtime?

I love to spend time with my family: my parents, 3 sisters and their husbands, and 13 nieces and nephews! I also love to sing, read, and go to the theater, we are blessed with wonderful community theater in our area.

What book are you reading now?

The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr and Someone by Alice McDermott

Volunteer activity you love the most.

Coordinating food deliveries for area families. I have enjoyed witnessing the generosity of the many volunteers who come to unload trucks, organize food boxes, and deliver them to families in need. An added bonus is getting to hear stories of how some families find ways to “pay it forward.”

What motivates you to give back to your community?

My family, faith and formation. All my life I have felt called to give back. My parents set the example early and often included me and my sisters in their community service. I have been blessed throughout my life and I want to share the gifts I’ve received with others.

What Superpower would you most love to have?

I often act as though I can teleport. Planning too many activities too close together. It would be nice if I actually could!

What has been the most eye-opening thing about the coronavirus pandemic for you, personally?

As a Mercy Associate I made a commitment to join the community in prayer and ministry focusing on 5 areas of “critical concern” non-violence, the role of women in the church and society, immigration, anti-racism, and care for the earth.

The coronavirus pandemic brought into sharp relief how interconnected we are and how much we rely on one another. While the spread of the disease highlighted the vulnerability of that interconnectedness, the overall response to it within our community shined a light on the power of coming together and supporting one another (even from a distance).

What does the honor of being named to the 40 Under 40 most mean to you?

I am humbled to be among this year’s class of 40 Under 40 and grateful for the opportunity to share my love for my community and my passion for what I do with so many.