When I was a child, my single-parent immigrant family lived through two realities in our nation. One dealt with poverty, racism, and inequality. The other dealt with people who believe that if an individual or family works hard enough, they can lift themselves out of the plight of socioeconomic disadvantage. Some have said our family is a testimony to “American greatness” and “abundant opportunity” because we, as a family, seem to have achieved what some may perceive as the American Dream. The reality is quite different. We struggled to put food on the table, and my single mother was perpetually stuck in low-income, below-standard-living-wage jobs. To survive, I (and my sister) had to work all through junior high, high school, and beyond. Yes, it may seem that we made it. What people don’t see is that we are not the norm. Rather, we are the exception/anomaly. Our story would have been entirely different if it had not been for the churches, community organizations, and mentors coming alongside us and providing the guidance, support, opportunities, and resources needed.
On my professional journey, I wanted to find the right organization where I could apply my expertise, leadership, and experience to change the trajectory for families and communities with the mindset that we look out for each other. I believe I found that organization in CAO with its mission statement “To promote opportunities for low-income individuals, families, and communities to achieve and sustain self-sufficiency through advocacy, partnerships, access to services and low-to-moderate income housing development.” I love that it is not just a tagline, or a hope without a plan, or an inspirational quote. I recognized that CAO’s way is not only to meet the immediate “here and now” need but to create meaningful and sustainable growth for families and communities.
My vision for CAO is to strengthen the organization financially, operationally, and strategically to reach more communities. I want CAO to be a national model and set itself as the gold standard for best practices. Our goal in fulfilling CAO’s mission starts with Western New York.
Together, let’s dream and envision CAO becoming synonymous with creating opportunities toward an abundant and self-sufficient life for our communities and families. Together, by leveraging federal, state, and local government support and legislative action with collaborative partnerships, we will build on CAO’s history and the legacy set by L. Nathan Hare. Together, partner with me as I lead CAO to lean in to its mission, promote creativity and innovation, and expand our horizons into the future.