Q&A with Marta Delgado & Sam Nandi
As part of marking ten years of Cara Connects, we are honoring integral members of our community who have contributed to our mission-driven staffing firm at our 2023 Tribute to the Stars. Our Thomas M. Owens Mission Award honorees are Sam Nandi and Marta Delgado, who have contributed to this mission via their generous giving, their advocacy for our job seekers, and Marta’s service on our Board of Directors. Below, they share how they were introduced to and continue to be inspired by this mission.
How were you first introduced to Cara Collective (and Cara Connects)?
Sam: Marta came across an edition of Chicago magazine in 2016 that highlighted the best Chicago area charities. We had begun to think more seriously about philanthropic giving and wanted to focus on our hometown and on organizations who were recognized for being impactful in how they managed their resources. Cara was among the organizations listed and the work Cara does, and the constituency it serves, is not something that is found elsewhere, but is desperately needed (particularly offering formerly incarcerated people an opportunity to build their lives again through employment).
Marta: After our initial introduction to Cara, Sam and I would meet with (then-President) Maria Kim and (then-Individual Giving Manager) Beth Lye at least once a year to discuss ways for us to become engaged. It was during one of these meetings that Maria mentioned Cara Connects and the idea of co-location. We were impressed with how candid she was when describing how this was just an idea and telling us that it wasn’t clear whether or not it would be successful but asking us to support the idea. I come from a non-profit background and understand that often, donors want to restrict giving to areas that don’t really need funding, or to programs that are already successful and will require specific metrics in order to continue supporting the organization financially. I’ve always disliked that part of non-profit work, and Sam and I thought that co-location would be a good idea to take a bet on. If it worked, great, and if not, then the organization would at least get some information about why it didn’t work so that the program could be tweaked in the future.
What impressed you about this organization that made you become an active member of it?
Sam: After we sent in our donation, we didn’t expect to think about it again until the following holiday season (which is typically when we focus our philanthropic giving). But, soon after, Beth Lye reached out to thank Marta for her donation and invite both of us to come to the Cara offices to learn more about the organization. It was a remarkable reach out, in that it seemed that Beth (and later Maria Kim and others at Cara) weren’t just reaching out to ensure we kept donating to the organization, though I’m sure that was part of it. What was remarkable was the earnestness in the presentation of the organization and the excitement everyone at Cara displayed when talking about the organization. The absolute belief that if we learned what Cara was really about, that we would want to become more engaged.
You are receiving the Thomas M Owens Mission Award at this year’s Tribute to the Stars – how do you live out the mission of Cara Collective in your day-to-day?
Marta: We recognize that we live in a community and that the community can only grow and be successful if everyone in it is valued. Communities, like families, struggle and succeed but how long the struggle or success lasts depends on the strength of the relationships within it. For us, we try to build relationships with neighbors and others in our community so that we can help in ways that are tangible and that, hopefully, have an impact. This is what Cara does. Every member of our city deserves food, shelter, safety and dignity. We are trying to show our kids that everyone has something to offer and that being able to help someone achieve safety or comfort is valuable not only to those who are receiving, but also to those who are giving.
Is there a particular memory or moment with Cara Collective that stands out to you?
Marta: Our first Motivations left a lasting impression on both of us. It was terrifying (because we thought we’d be called) and exhilarating to witness something that was so judgment free and full of joy.
You were instrumental in making our co-location partnership with Northwest Center happen. Where did you see alignment between our two organizations?
Sam: Northwest Center is focused on improving the neighborhood where it is located, understanding that people who seek help need to trust those who are offering help. Cara’s goal has always been to meet people where they are at but with Co-Location that also meant geographically. Marta grew up in South Chicago at a time when the neighborhood suffered greatly after the steel mills closed and unemployment soared. At that time, there was always this idea that obtaining success meant leaving the neighborhood and working/living in Downtown. Success was always to be found “over there.” With Co-Location, we wanted to change the perception that success can only be found over “there” by saying there is value and success to be found “here”- where people call home.
What does being part of this community mean to you?
Marta: Being part of Cara community means that we are part of a team that recognizes that Chicago and its success depends on bringing out the best in everyone who lives in the city. Our personal comfort is meaningless if our neighbors are struggling. The Cara community turns struggle into success simply by understanding what each person can contribute and finding ways to maximize those skills and resources.