Rose McKinney-James Helps Feed Las Vegas' Hungry
As told to Lisa Arcella
Raised in Detroit by her grandparents while her mother, noted jazz singer Teri Thornton, was on the road, Rose McKinney-James was taught that those fortunate enough to find success have an obligation to help their community. Her great-grandmother Reverend Elizabeth Crews made it part of her mission to feed the hungry. Now McKinney- James, the founder of Energy Works Consulting and McKinney-James & Associates in Las Vegas, is continuing that legacy with her work as a board member of Three Square, an organization that comes to the aid of Nevada’s food-insecure families.
McKinney-James entered adulthood believing she would become a singer like her mother, but ultimately she went to law school and made her professional mark almost immediately, serving a five-year tenure with the Nevada Public Service Commission and becoming the state’s first director of the Department of Business and Industry. An expert on solar technology, she has helped Nevada become a leader in the clean energy movement.
Here, she shares her motivations:
There is an obligation to give back. It’s become almost a cliché, but what John F. Kennedy said is true: “To those whom much is given, much is expected.” That’s how I grew up, and it’s one of the principles I share with my two sons (Avery, 16, and Erick, 22), and how my husband of 27 years, Frederick, and I live our lives. But that’s just part of the reason I am fortunate to serve on the board of Three Square.
There are a growing number of people who are facing hunger every day, and I was drawn to Three Square because it is an extraordinarily sophisticated operation: We have a national network and provide services in a very efficient way, distributing food to those with the greatest need. In addition to serving low-income families and the homeless, we also provide meals for children who are eligible for reduced and free meals at school.
September is Hunger Action Month, and Three Square’s Restaurant Week is running August 27 to September 2. Participating restaurants offer a special prix fixe meal, with a portion of the proceeds going to Three Square. DISH Las Vegas, Three Square’s annual fundraiser, will be held on September 20 at the Palms Casino Resort by the pool. It is an innovative event where a number of chefs, recognizable names, provide a host of fabulous bites. Guests can mingle and enjoy a wide variety of culinary treats, and at the same time learn more about the services that Three Square provides. It’s a very cool event—not just a fundraiser, but also an experience.
I grew up in Detroit with my grandparents and was particularly influenced by my grandmother, Burniece Avery. She was an author and teacher. Like me, she attended law school and wanted to make a meaningful contribution to her community. My great-grandmother, Reverend Elizabeth Crews, made a personal commitment to make sure that families in need were fed. That was an essential aspect of her ministry.
For me, that commitment continues as an ongoing part of my personal journey. I have had some remarkable opportunities in Las Vegas, and much of the board work I do provides me with unique opportunities to give back. Las Vegas is my home, and it’s important to me to be a part of this community. I founded Energy Works Consulting and McKinney-James & Associates here. In a nutshell, I represent clients who are interested in advancing or clarifying clean energy policies and those who are active in the solar and renewable energy industry.
Everything I do has a connection. I am very flattered by offers to serve on various committees and boards, and I try to select those things that are meaningful for me personally. That is why it’s easy to manage the time commitment. Some days I do wonder how to keep it all together. It’s a time management and prioritization process you go through, and on occasion you get jammed up and you just feel overwhelmed. But over time, I have found a way to know my own personal bounds, and owning my own business gives me the personal flexibility I need to make it all work. When I have some free time I love to garden, and I sing on occasion. My mother, Teri Thornton, was a celebrated jazz artist. I am also on the board of directors at the Smith Center.
But I am not a cook! I do it well enough to keep my boys happy but certainly not to the level you will see at the incredible DISH event. It’s going to be a lot of fun. DISH Las Vegas, Palms Pool & Bungalows, September 20, 6:30–9:30 PM
photography by leila navidi (opener); courtesy of three square (three square headquarters, chefs)