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An Important Announcement from Maria Kim, Cara President & CEO

“While I was sitting in the lobby, wringing my fingers in anticipation, I was reminded a little bit of Thanksgiving. Everyone was running about – stacking chairs in neat columns, making jokes that the carpet had seen better days, and giving hugs and well wishes for a good evening. It was like watching family and friends cleaning up after a holiday gathering; and put simply, it reminded me of home.”

I wrote the above to my now-predecessor but then-interviewer, Eric Weinheimer, in my thank you letter for my first interview at Cara almost 16 years ago – a moment I still remember to this day.

This moment is even more crystallized for me now, as I have some important news to share with you all: Effective June 1, I will be stepping down from Cara and will be assuming the role of President for an organization called REDF.

As many of you know, I bleed Cara. So this decision was made, not because I want to leave a mission I love, but because I have a chance to take what we’ve learned and help catalyze a whole field of social enterprises around the country.

Some of you who are our peers in the work may recognize the name REDF, but for those who are not as familiar: think of them as a national social enterprise funder, thought leader, and policy influencer. Their portfolio includes 134 social enterprises operating out of 30 states and DC – including Cara, as we were fortunate to join this prestigious group in 2016. In a nutshell, REDF aims to help social enterprises to kickstart and to grow; and in their own way, it cultivates the Caras of tomorrow.

Sometimes when people hear of a CEO transitioning, their mind goes to the state of the organization because they profoundly care, as we do, that this mission continues to thrive.

Here’s what you should know: We’re ready to end this fiscal year in a strong cash position, with growing and diverse revenue sources; an amazing community of board leadership, staff, alumni, and participants; a vibrant mission that has stretched in new and meaningful ways during this incredible time; and a growing body of work that is fueling both new opportunity for our participants and new perspective for employers on how to create a more inclusive economy for all.

To boot, on the heels of this incredible year, we are in a moment of both deep inflection about where we are, and deep celebration of how far we’ve come – especially with 2021 as the 30th anniversary of this beautiful mission.

To help find the next leader who can take this inflection and celebration and bring this organization to new heights, we have secured Koya Partners as our executive search firm. In the coming weeks, a candidate profile will be made available on their and our communication channels.

When I wrote the above thank you letter to my predecessor Eric, I wanted him to know what I felt while waiting for him in that room – that the energy was palpable and the culture was real. The “everyone” I spoke of were all of our participants – owning every aspect of our space, returning it to its proper order, in a sweet and heightened choreography that wasn’t orchestrated, it was organic – like what people do and how they are when they’re in the rhythm of their own space, with their own family. There are no airs, just speed, and connection, and intention – and through one observation I could tell that this place wasn’t just about the jobs, it was about building a culture and a community and a set of skills that had the real possibility of changing your life.

Cara holds my heart, and always will. It has given me as much of my own voice as we help our participants to reclaim every day; and for that renewal and that sense of community, I owe this organization and all of you not just my career, but my life.

Before I ring that bell four months from now, know that Cara is as beautiful as it is not because of one person, but because of all of us. Together, we make a vibrant community that brings this mission to life; and together, the best is truly yet to come.

Let’s get to work.

In friendship,

Maria Kim
President & CEO, Cara

Click here to read our press announcement on Maria’s transition.