By Kelly Sweeney McShane, President and CEO
On January 4th, I celebrated 20 years as CEO of Community of Hope. A lot has happened in that time, both professionally and personally. I have been reflecting on my first few days at Community of Hope – when we had about 30 staff, a budget of about $1.5 million and a lot of financial instability. Our one health center was serving about 2,000 patients and our housing program served about 30 families at a time at two locations. Today, we have over 350 staff, a budget of about $35 million, nine locations, and we are serving over 12,000 patients in health services and 1,200 families in our housing programs. In my wildest dreams, I never would have foreseen that.
People have asked me over the years how we have done all this. I credit a keen focus on our mission and the needs of the people we serve, our serious commitment to strategic planning, a strong organizational culture, and a wonderful team of staff, board members, volunteers, and donors – many of whom have been with us over the 20 years. No one person could have done all this alone. [Sidebar - Kevin McShane, Kelly's husband and our 'First Gentleman', says '...Kelly is too humble to give herself the credit she deserves." Read more about what Kevin has to say about Kelly's accomplishments below. ]
As I look back over these years, there is much I am proud of. I personally have taken a lead in developing at least five buildings that have expanded our reach through the District of Columbia (with a new home for Family Health and Birth Center in the works right now).
But I am proudest of the work that is done in these buildings – the high quality medical, dental, and behavioral health care, the safe housing and caring support services, the work to prevent families from becoming homeless, and the partnerships with other organizations. I am so touched every time I meet someone – and it happens a lot these days and in all sorts of places – who praises their great doctor, helpful therapist, caring case manager, amazing midwife, friendly receptionist, and the list goes on. I continue to be inspired by the strengths, hopes, and resilience of the people we serve.
There are a few things that are clearer to me than ever before. First, it takes time and hard work to create change. I’ve often told new staff that it takes at least a year to learn a job, and it takes at least a year to get a new program started. It takes time to build trust and create change, especially with issues that are deeply rooted. People need to be in this work for the long haul. Second, providing direct services is not enough to address hundreds of years of racist policies and practices. Despite 20 years of helping hundreds of thousands of people, there are still too many inequities in health outcomes, income, and housing stability for people of color. We must look at structural changes and policy changes. We have to work in partnership with others to make that change happen. Hence, I remain committed to continued personal learning and action to combat racial injustice, to listening to and empowering people of color and our communities, and to the continued partnership with other government and nonprofit agencies.
On a personal level, I have also been a wife and mother of three throughout these 20 years. My two biological children were 4 and 6 when I started at Community of Hope and we adopted our third child a few years later. Family has always been a priority for me – and I encourage the same for my staff. I am so grateful to my husband and family for all their love and support throughout this journey.
As I look to the future, despite an incredibly difficult year managing through COVID, I remain energized and hopeful. Community of Hope has a bold vision and strategic plan that we are moving forward with, despite COVID. We have a great team of leaders, staff, board members, donors, and volunteers. And we still have a lot of work to do to make Washington, DC more equitable. I am so grateful to all who have been a part of this journey with me and look forward to many more good years ahead.
The Real Truth
Kevin McShane, Community of Hope’s “First Gentleman”, Kelly’s husband of 29 years, Top Social Media Fan, Cheerleader to All
I know better than anyone that Kelly is too humble to give herself the credit she deserves. I know she would rightly recognize that Community of Hope is indeed a community and the whole community has contributed to the success of the organization over the last 20 years. At any rate, I am hijacking her reflection.
From multiple, high-level awards including the ‘Women Who Mean Business’ from Washington Business Journal and her valued leadership at the DC Primary Care Association and the DC Interagency Council on Homelessness to stewarding multi-million investments from Jeff Bezos to end family homelessness and building state of the art health centers in under-resourced areas – Kelly is well recognized for her achievements in our city. Under her leadership and with the team she built, DC has made significant progress in healthcare and in housing, and Community of Hope is at the frontlines for that.
I can also attest that Kelly lives in gratitude. She talks often and at length about the amazing people she works with at COH who are so committed to the organization’s goals.
I can say that Kelly is inspired by the hope that so many clients of COH have shared with her: The woman with three kids who is working on her addiction, holding down a job, and earning her GED while helping her kids find their ways. The young mother who can deliver her baby safely and with the dignity she deserves. I have been with Kelly when she bumps into a former client. They inevitably thank her and tell her how COH helped them move forward with their lives.
Finally, while I’m sure Kelly would rightly thank all of you for believing in her and in COH, I know you’ll all want to join the former clients, staff*, donors, board, city leaders, and me in thanking her for 20 remarkable years.
*Not just Kelly's family love her - so do the staff members at Community of Hope! Watch their words of appreciation below!
1st picture (left) – Kelly and Alyce McFarland enjoy a mentoring relationship, 2019.
2nd picture (right) – Ingrid Scott and Kelly enjoy a Ladies Night In, 2020.
3rd picture (row, left) – Mayor Muriel Bowser, Joe Horning, and Kelly celebrate at the groundbreaking for The Commons at Stanton Square, 2017.
4th picture (row, center) – Kelly sharing the vision for Hope Apartments, 2005.
5th picture (row, right) – Celebrating the grand opening of the Conway Health and Resource Center with Dr. Christine Wiley, Jacqueline D. Bowens, Kelly, Councilmember (then Mayor) Vincent Gray, BB Otero, 2014.
6th picture (left) – Chris Kerns, lifelong volunteer and advisor; Kelly; Tom Nees, founder; and Bob Sloan, founding board chair celebrate the first Tom Nees Award for Exceptional Service, 2015.
7th picture (right) – Kelly and her family: Memuna, Molly, Mike, and husband, Kevin, 2014.
8th picture (right) – Dr. Tabari Baker, board chair; Kelly; and Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, on tour at The Commons, 2019.
9th picture (collage, top left) – Kelly and a young resident, 2009.
10th picture (collage, top right) – Kelly and a community member, 2017.
11th picture (collage, bottom) – Maira, board member; Kelly; and other advocates for our Marie Reed Health Center testifying before the DC Council.