Thank you to Kim Tapper, Co-Founder and Community Director at A Place To Be, for answering a few of our questions! Learn more about the Chamber’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility (DEIA) Committee here.
Where were you born and raised and, if it was someplace else, when and why did you come to Loudoun?
I was born and raised in Virginia Beach and came to Loudoun in 1999 when my dance company did a children’s show at The Hill School in Middleburg. I fell in love with Loudoun immediately for its beauty and I was enamored with the down-to-earth, passionate “movers and shakers” that I met and immediately began working on projects here. After a few years of commuting, I finally moved here full time in 2004.
Tell us about your business/nonprofit, and how long you’ve been in your industry.
I am the Co-Founder of A Place To Be (APTB), a Loudoun nonprofit that creates community, belonging, and hope through music therapy, performance, and the expressive arts. We serve primarily people with disabilities, medical, and mental health challenges and are super excited to be expanding to a 2nd full location in Leesburg (later in 2023!). We offer individual and group creative arts therapy sessions and social-emotional enrichment sessions along with numerous performances that highlight our clients and engage the community in conversations around resilience, mental wellness, belonging, and hope. APTB also provides the Inova Hospital System with Medical Music Therapy in all their hospitals and across multiple units including pediatrics, ICU, behavioral health, and acute care. Our financial aid program ensures that finances are not a barrier for someone to access the life-changing therapeutic services and community connections that will help them thrive. I’ve been involved in the arts, health, and human services my entire life and professional career, running 2 other nonprofits before APTB, having a private life coaching practice, and directing, choreographing, writing, and producing musical theater and dance productions.
How did you get into this line of work?
I started dancing when I was 3 and fell in love with all things arts from then on, always performing, creating, directing, choreographing, sewing costumes, writing, you name it. Dance was my escape and my safe place to express all that I was feeling, particularly when things were hard with my father’s medical challenges, so it was my dance therapy and mental health support without me knowing it at the time. My family was intimately touched by disabilities, medical challenges, and mental health struggles, and from an early age I was moved by people who were ‘on the fringe’, excluded, and who just needed someone to care (isn’t that all of us really?). So the journey to creating A Place To Be was very personal, combining the power of the arts and therapy with my experiences of loving and learning from people with a variety of challenges.
Have you had any special mentors or inspirations that guided your career?
So many – I feel incredibly lucky! I was deeply inspired by my family and learned a lot from their struggles, resilience, and love, as well as my clients and the families at APTB who have shown me what really matters as they share their hearts, hopes, joys, and struggles with me.
What is the best part of your job and why?
Witnessing the pure joy our clients and their families feel at the smallest of moments (which are actually monumental!), and seeing people of with vastly different needs come together to support each other across their differences, forming friendships, offering compassion, and celebrating each other. It’s what I wish our whole world could be like! Plus working surrounded by incredibly caring staff members, I am inspired literally every single day!
What is it like doing business in Loudoun?
Loudoun is a wonderful place to work – there is so much support and everyone I have met is kind and generous with their time, wisdom, and desire to help. I’m particularly amazed with our nonprofit community because we are all rooting for, learning from, and constantly showing up for one another – I think that is a tremendous testimony to this community on so many levels.
What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
To me it honors the countless contributions that women have made over history that were often overlooked or under-celebrated, and it’s a chance to highlight the work left to do to create equality, respect, opportunities, and safety for women everywhere. I’m deeply grateful to and often reflect on the opportunities I have thanks to those that paved the way thus far, and this is a month to help us make sure that we do not take any of it for granted.
Favorite things to do when you are not working?
I love traveling, writing, seeing theater and live music, watching films, exploring Loudoun’s wineries, breweries, and amazing hiking trails, oh – and eating as much delicious food as possible 😊. (You can do a lot of these by attending all the awesome nonprofit events in our area too – win, win!!)
Check out the A Place To Be website.