Ministering to gang members. Taking in children who have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused. Leveling the playing field for children born into extreme poverty. These are just a few of the responsibilities and challenges faced by nonprofit CEOs Angie Mock and Gloria Kelly and Major Tracey Czajkowski, Salvation Army associate area commander. These three women spend their days fighting to create a positive impact in situations where many others have thrown in the towel. Why do they do it? Because they all share a passion that takes their roles in their respective organizations from simply “occupation” to “way of life.”
Angie Mock, CEO Boys and Girls Clubs of San Antonio
Sometimes it takes a wake-up call to find your true vocation. Business owner Angie Mock received that call when her now 11-year-old twins were born extremely prematurely. “After going through something so traumatic, I knew I would end up doing something to help others,” says Mock. “I felt it was a calling.” Mock, who was born and raised in Tennessee, moved to Texas with her husband and babies when the twins were just 18 months old. After serving on local boards and volunteering with various nonprofit organizations, she was working as a local business consultant before being offered the role of CEO with Boys and Girls Clubs of San Antonio almost three years ago. It was just the opportunity she had been waiting for, and she jumped into the role with a contagious enthusiasm.
“Kids can’t help the circumstances that they are born into,” she explains. “Some hit the lottery, but far too many in San Antonio do not. I want to put those kids on a level playing field.”
The Boys and Girls Clubs of San Antonio have seven core branches and are in 43 schools. The organization currently boasts more than 8,000 members (children ages 6 to 18). That’s up from 5,400 members in 2011. During the school year approximately 4,000 of those members can be found attending a Boys and Girls Clubs facility. “Even with that growth, we are still just scratching the surface,” says Mock. Since taking over as CEO, Mock is doing her part to dig deeper. One change she has implemented is to follow the national organization’s Formula For Impact at the local level. The formula is focused on three things that address the entire child: academic success, character and good citizenship and a healthy lifestyle. “Basically, we have gone from being outcome intended to outcome driven,” she explains. “We are now clearly measuring how we are doing in those three areas.” Mock is also focusing more on the daily attendance numbers. Studies have shown that children who attend the program three or more days a week have more successful outcomes than those who attend fewer than three days. In fact, 99 percent of Boys and Girls Clubs members were promoted to the next grade level on time or graduated on time. As impressive as that figure is, Mock wants more. She says that the biggest challenge she faces is how to continually raise the bar higher and set higher expectations on the desired outcomes and how to deliver them. She has taken steps such as installing vending machines with healthy snack options and adding new programs, including a partnership with the San Antonio Ballet, which was inspired by her own daughter’s love of dance. In what she deems a “Steve Jobs mentality,” Mock has made a concerted effort to surround herself with what she calls an “amazing” staff. “The best advice I ever received was to surround myself with the smartest and most passionate people you can find,” she says. “That’s what I’ve been doing for the past two years.”
Her own passion for her work has created another challenge for Mock: balancing her home and work life. She manages this by trying to make sure she rotates both roles equally, and the twins often come to work with mom in the summer to play or attend field trips. It’s all part of her desire to make the world a better place for all children, including her own. “To go out of this world saying that I helped kids who wouldn’t have had the same opportunities otherwise, and to be a great mother and wife is really all I need,” she says. “That’s a powerful thing.”
Gloria Kelly, CEO, Roy Maas’ Youth Alternatives (RMYA)
Imagine a 16-year-old hydrocephalic boy being locked in a basement and denied his medication for days on end. Picture a little girl whose father forced her to kneel on uncooked grains of rice for hours as a form of punishment. These are just a couple of the horror stories that Roy Maas’ Youth Alternatives CEO Gloria Kelly hears on a daily basis. “Every child here has a story, and it is our job to find it and help them to start healing,” says the San Antonio native. Roy Maas’ Youth Alternatives has been helping children like these start the healing process since 1976, and Kelly has been a part of that process for the past 31 years. She began as the business manager before being named executive director in 1994 following the death of founder Roy Maas. She now serves as the organization’s CEO and has been recognized for her impact on the community with several honors and awards, including the prestigious Nonprofit Leader of the Year Award from the San Antonio Business Journal. Kelly says that she doesn’t do it for the recognition, however; she does it for the children in the spirit of founder Roy Maas.
“I am blessed to have a job where every day I can make a difference in the life of a child,” she says.
Over the course of her 31-year career, Kelly has watched RMYA grow into a multifunctional entity capable of helping children with a variety of needs. In San Antonio, facilities include counseling and administrative offices, a thrift shop, Turning Point housing for children who have aged out of the Foster Care program and, of course, the 24-hour emergency shelter known simply as The Bridge. “The Bridge was the first program established,” explains Kelly. “When the children come in here, they know they are somewhere safe, and they want to stay.” Children are typically housed at The Bridge for a two-week period, but in those two weeks, amazing things can happen. “We have kids who come by here all the time and tell us that they were brought to The Bridge 10, 15 or even 20 years ago and that they just wanted to say ‘thank you,’” says Kelly. In fact, two former residents of The Bridge volunteer their time to take care of the organization that took care of them. One 46-year-old male volunteers in the thrift shop, while another has cooked a Thanksgiving dinner for The Bridge residents for the past 10 years. “Those two weeks really make an impact on them,” says Kelly.
In 1986, the Meadowland Campus in Boerne was established with long-term residential care facilities for both boys and girls. Six years ago, a charter school was added on campus, and it now serves grades one through 12. While the evolution of RMYA has been positive, as with any business, expansion comes with a price. Kelly says one of the biggest challenges in her role is making sure that there is enough money to meet growing needs. “The state pays only about 75 percent of what it takes to care for one child,” she explains, adding that one of her goals is to be able to increase the pay for the people who work day in and day out with the children. “Theirs is a labor of love,” she says. “Our staff can get hit, spit on, cursed at, and yet they still show up the next day. They are my heroes.” When she isn’t devoting her days to making the world a better place for the children of RMYA, Kelly is devoted to her family. Her husband (and high school sweetheart), Bart, is a counselor at RMYA, and they have a daughter, Whitney, and a new granddaughter, Penny. Family dinners are a part of life, and when she isn’t in the kitchen, you can find Kelly curled up with a good book, preferably one with a happy ending.
“If I want to read something sad, I can just look at our case files,” says this dedicated CEO. “Personally, I believe in happy endings.”
Major Tracey Czajkowski,Associate Area Commander, the Salvation Army
Major Tracey Czajkowski is a self-described “people person” who “loves helping others.” One can only assume that’s what drove this petite blond to march into the apartment of a local gang member to fetch a teen who was supposed to be attending Bible study. “I never dreamed I’d be ministering to kids in gangs,” says Czajkowski. “But I started hosting a Bible study in my own home for them.” Not many women would take on that challenge, but then after speaking with Czajkowski for a few minutes, you realize she isn’t like many women. This dynamic major joined her husband in working with the Salvation Army in 1996 when she said she felt that God was calling her to the ministry. After becoming ordained and commissioned, she worked at the El Paso office before receiving her appointment to San Antonio in 2012. The Salvation Army is located in 127 countries around the world and, although not part of the military, it does follow a military structure. It comprises many different ministries and programs, as well as hospitals, churches and shelters. Czajkowski points out that the Emergency Shelter is one of the few emergency facilities that keeps the entire family unit together. “Being in need of an emergency shelter is stressful enough already without splitting a family up,” she explains.
Here in San Antonio, the emergency shelter averages 100 people per night. The average age of those people? Seven to 12 years old. The families live at the shelter and establish a routine while trying to get back on their feet. Helping these families in that endeavor is a major component of the Salvation Army’s mission. Members work to help these people find employment and move into individual apartments through the Village Program, and then to an actual house through a program called Scattered Sites. The goal is to make these families functioning and productive members of society who can take care of themselves. “We don’t want to do a hand-out program, we want to give a hand-up,” says Czajkowski. Other programs include adult rehabilitation centers, men’s shelters, senior programs, a women’s auxiliary and the familiar Red Kettle and Angel Tree programs that take place during the holidays. The program of which Czajkowski is most fond, however, is the Shoe-In. This program provides brand-new shoes to children in the community, including those served by the Salvation Army. Last year, approximately 3,035 children benefited from the Shoe-In. “The Shoe-In is my favorite program,” says Czajkowski enthusiastically. “It reminds me of being a kid on Christmas morning.”
While there is not an area that Czajkowski has not worked in or will not serve, the one that she says touches her heart the most is Disaster Duty. She helped reunite parents with their daughter and new grandbaby in Baton Rouge during Hurricane Katrina, and following the shooting at Ft. Hood, Czajkowski went to the site to minister to those affected. “It felt good to be able to offer help to these people who were hurting,” she says. Czajkowski, who will receive a degree in Christian counseling in May of 2014, says she loves people and being able to help them in their times of need. “I enjoy the counseling part and helping people through their issues in life,” she says. “We all have them.” In her own life, Czajkowski is not only a wife but also a mother and a grandmother who is learning to play golf in her down time. Her work is her passion, however, and even challenges such as meeting the financial obligations necessary to run all of the organization’s many programs cannot deter her from her path. “This job is me; it’s in my blood,” she says with conviction. “It’s part of what I do and who I am.”