by Kate Branum • photography by Two Eagles Marcus
In a substantial red-brick building standing on the corner of Front Avenue and 6th Street in Grand Rapids, behind welcoming glass doors, sits the Women’s Resource Center, where Sandra Gaddy, along with a team of dedicated individuals, works hard to improve the lives of women all over the city.
Gaddy, recently named CEO of the Women’s Resource Center, has accumulated more than 20 years of experience in developing teams, strategic planning, collaboration and fundraising. She emphasized her enthusiasm for working with an organization whose mission is to empower women in West Michigan to achieve economic independence through meaningful employment, career development and personal growth.
“I’m blessed and honored to join an organization where I can combine both passion and work together to make differences in the lives of the women we serve here at Women’s Resource Center,” Gaddy expressed.
In 2008, after serving on multiple nonprofit boards, Gaddy decided to follow her passion for service and began working with local nonprofits. She first served as chief development officer for Mel Trotter Ministries and later moved to the Inner City Christian Federation where she held a position as vice president of advancement.
Throughout her career, Gaddy became heavily involved in several women’s leadership groups, including the Detroit-based organization Inforum of Michigan, Grand Rapids Chamber of Black Women Connect, 100 Women Who Give and the Michigan Women’s Foundation. She also used her compassionate nature to become a mentor and life coach for many young women.
Gaddy has long been familiar with the Women’s Resource Center, having made regular donations to the Women’s Working Closet, where women can find professional attire, accessories, cosmetics and hair care products.
“I’ve watched the Women’s Resource Center from afar for many years,” Gaddy said. “I’ve always known about the excellent work [done here] but I didn’t realize [the center] had been doing that incredible work since 1973–what a rich history!”
As soon as a position opened at the center, Gaddy was encouraged to apply by a mentor and several community partners and leaders who recognized her dedication and capability.
“After some prayer and consideration, I applied for the position,” Gaddy smiled.
Just a short while later, Gaddy found herself settling into her new office, ready to serve. She knew she had big shoes to fill, but she was eager to lace them up and get started.
“I do feel that I was uniquely equipped for this position because of my experience with both corporate and nonprofit leadership, developing strong teams and collaborative partnerships,” Gaddy said. “We already have a resilient team here at the Women’s Resource Center. They want to make a difference in the lives of the women we serve and the lives of their families, and I am excited to be a part of this important work while also building upon the foundation that has already been established. It’s quite energizing.”
As CEO, Gaddy has a hand in just about everything. Her first order of business is to familiarize herself with the center’s programs and services and the partnerships that drive the organization and its many participants.
The Women’s Resource Center has made a vast impact, serving over 600 women just in the past year. The intensive programs at the center are practical and aim to aid women in job hunting strategies, resume building, interview techniques, employability and life skills training as they search for employment.
While Gaddy isn’t looking to make any major changes right away, she would like to enhance the center’s community exposure by increasing strategic relationships with employers and donor partners. She also shared her enthusiasm for the organization’s devoted volunteers.
“We have an incredible group of volunteers, and I would love to see even more diversity in the volunteers serving [participants] at the center,” she pointed out.
In the near future, Gaddy and her team would like to translate their current curriculum into Spanish.
“We see a number of Latina women in the center, and often there are language barriers,” Gaddy explained. “We want to make sure we can fully serve their needs and ensure they are able to take advantage of the educational, mentoring and coaching opportunities offered at the center.”
As she spoke about the future of the center, Gaddy emanated a sense of hope and empowerment.
“As an African American woman, it was very encouraging [to accept this position], because I know we haven’t seen a lot of leadership positions for women or men of color in this community,” she expressed. “It is exciting because there is so much that we can contribute to the workplace, the community and the rich perspectives that we can add when given the opportunity. I’m so grateful to the board of directors for this opportunity.”
Gaddy hopes the community will continue to recognize and share the powerful work happening each day at the Women’s Resource Center. She remains optimistic and diligently searches for the “small wins” that will allow the center to expand and develop even further.
Now that she’s had a chance to meet with each team member at the center, she knows for certain that she’s landed in the place she was meant to be.
“We serve women from different walks of life. Whether it’s single mom trying to make ends meet, a woman facing employment barriers due to job loss or a woman who is justice involved, the Women’s Resource Center team, and our outstanding volunteers and philanthropic partners’ commitment and passion to equip and empower women for success is powerful,” Gaddy said. “Again, I’m so excited to be a part of this work.”