Safe Passage director looks to diversify group’s fundrasing

Safe Passage director looks to diversify groups fundrasing

By Keisha Howerth

Safe Passage’s new executive director will collaborate with the DeKalb and NIU Police and network with other local agencies to make DeKalb a safer community.

Safe Passage will welcome its executive director, Mary Ellen Schaid, at its Tuesday board meeting.

“I’m looking to strengthen and diversify the fundraising for Safe Passage and making sure the agency is serving the community,” Schaid said. “I hope to meet more community members and become engaged with them.”

DeKalb County’s domestic violence and sexual assault prevention agency has provided a range of services to victims and their children for more than 25 years, including crisis intervention and medical advocacy, short- and long-term housing, counseling, legal advocacy, community education and an abuser intervention program.

Schaid will begin work as Safe Passage’s executive director on May 1. Lois Self, Safe Passage search committee chair and board member, said Schaid met several board and staff members in March, but will be formally introduced to all members at the meeting.

“We are thrilled to have Mary Ellen joining us,” said Pat Brown, Safe Passage Board president. “The staff and board are very confident that she will be an ideal leader for the future growth and development of [Safe Passage].”

Self said Deanna Hacker, Safe Passage chief financial officer, has been serving as interim director since Linda Moser resigned for health reasons in March 2013.

Self said the search for an executive director wasn’t launched until late last fall.

“We deliberately did the search process slowly and carefully,” Self said. “Safe Passage conducted a strategic planning process last year, and that helped guide our search to look for a qualified person that could build on our plan.”

Schaid, a Chicago-area native, said she will bring more than 15 years of non-profit leadership to the position. She spent almost 10 years as president and CEO of the Gillis Center, the oldest child and family service agency in Kansas City, Mo. She was the executive director of DuPage County Children’s Advocacy Center for seven years.

“We are extremely fortunate to be able to hire someone with the experience, expertise and passion for our mission as Mary Ellen,” Self said. “She’s a very warm and congenial person.”

Schaid said she looks forward to helping the agency grow and is eager to work with other local organizations and NIU to reduce sexual assault and domestic violence in the community. Schaid said she won’t know what specific changes she will make until next week’s board meeting.

Schaid said the position appealed to her because of the agency’s mission to help domestic violence and sexual assault victims. Schaid said she also wanted to be closer to her family in northern Illinois.

“I’ve spent a career in working with abuse victims,” Schaid said. “I also wanted to work in the DeKalb area, so it’s a good fit.”

Schaid said she’ll join the agency for its Take Back the Night & Survivor Speak Out event at NIU for Sexual Assault Awareness Month after the board meeting on Tuesday.

“Take Back the Night is a great opportunity to bring awareness to Safe Passage and let more people know that services are available,” Schaid said.