Carmel Magazine

CM Winter 2016 Issue

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50 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • W I N T E R 2 0 1 6 LOCALKNOWLEDGE Donna Ferraro Boys and Girls Clubs CEO, Youth Leader, Mother T he name Donna Ferraro is quite simply one of the most respected in Monterey County's nonprofit sector. When she star ted working with Boys and Girls Clubs of Monterey County (BGCMC), the organization consisted of a single small facility, six employees and a $135,000 budget. As she prepares to retire at the end of 2016 after 25 years, she oversees two main facilities in Seaside and Salinas plus five extension sites in Salinas and Gonzales, a staff of 76, and an operating budget of $4.4 mil- lion. Along the way she's forged meaningful and fruitful relation- ships with government and educational officials, scores of teach- ers and parents, and has touched the lives of thousands of chil- dren. And she's done it all with professionalism and palpable, con- tagious enthusiasm. Taking a sabbatical from a banking career with Citicorp to stay home while her son was in school, Ferraro soon found herself wanting more to do. She learned from a friend that the organiza- tion needed help with a capital campaign for construction of a new clubhouse. "My first reaction was, 'What's a Boys and Girls Club?'" she laughs. Nevertheless, she came onboard in 1991 as BCGMC's first resource development director. Nine years later the dynamic exec- utive accepted the position of chief executive officer. Recognizing her leadership abilities, Ferraro was tapped to join the Boys and Girls Clubs of America's Professional Association and Presidential Advisory Committee, and serves on the board for the Boys and Girls Clubs Workers Association. Closer to home, she was inducted in the 2011 Monterey Bay Junior Achievement of Northern California Business Hall of Fame and received the 2009 CSU Monterey Bay Community Leadership award. She plans to step down from BGCMC on Dec. 31, 2016. Q: What drew you to BGCMC? A: Our son Matthew is an accomplished underwater documen- tary filmmaker. He grew up on the Peninsula, had access to the ocean and our incredible environment every day. He is the man he is today because of the opportunities he had. One difference between him and other kids is that he had opportunity. I believe that every child needs and deserves that opportunity. Today, 70 percent of Monterey County third graders are not reading at their grade level. These kids have the same gifts, just not the opportunity. I believe that when you recognize a need, you do the best you can to fill it. This has never been a job to me; it's truly an avocation. I never wake up and not want to come here. What kept me interested and engaged all these years was the organization's continual growth and shifting relevance. I felt like I had a new job every day. Q: Can you point to a singular accomplishment that defines your tenure? A: Monterey County is actually quite a small community. Whatever visions I or my staff or our board had could not have been real- ized without that community. The roles of nonprofits have changed. Here, [the children] no longer just come and play basketball as in the past. We're now teaching math, science, art, music, reading and social skills. We work closely with teachers and the schools. I've been able to build an amazing staff of dedicated people. Many of them could be making a lot more money elsewhere, but they've chosen to be of service, to give back to their community. Number one is the relationship the kids have with our staff. Their feet do the talking…if we're not doing our jobs, they don't come. One of my favorite things is standing at the front door and watching the kids get off the bus—their faces light up and they can't wait to get in here. We're now seeing parents who came here as kids bringing their children. They know what great experi- ences they had here, and want their kids to enjoy that too. This organization changes lives and it saves lives. In the last quar ter-century, I've seen successes and I've seen failures, but we've had lots more successes. In the end, it's about the club, the community and it's about the kids…it's not about Donna Ferraro. Q: What's next for you? A: I've been offered work by the Boys and Girls Club, but I'm not sure where my path will lead; not sure who Donna Ferraro will be on Jan. 1, 2017. I believe that in any organization, it's important for a long-time executive to step aside and let the successor do their job. It's important that the organization remains sustainable and strong. It's much bigger than any one of us. The journey the organization and I have taken is truly remark- able. It will be an interesting transition.

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