Cleveland Angels Connection
ORDINARY PEOPLE MAKING AN EXTRAORDINARY DIFFERENCE
ORDINARY PEOPLE MAKING AN EXTRAORDINARY DIFFERENCE
An Interview with Executive Director, Gretchen Dupps, and President of the Board, Christy Rutkowski
Cleveland Angels recently celebrated three years of walking alongside children, youth, and families impacted by the foster care system and we could not be more proud of everything we have accomplished. This past year, in particular, presented many new challenges and obstacles, but our struggles taught us valuable lessons and helped us develop new strengths. As we enter our fourth year, we have made some changes to our leadership structure in order to improve the efficiency and impact of our organization. Our founder and Executive Director Gretchen Dupps still leads Cleveland Angels with passion and drive, but she is now joined by our new President of the Board, Christy Rutkowski. In this interview with Gretchen and Christy, they share their personal experience with Cleveland Angels, their new roles within the organization, and what they are looking forward to within their positions.
“I know what it is like to have the unknown and trauma brought into your home. There is secondary trauma and underlying stress for everyone in the home. It is so important to make everyone a family member, a part of your home, and a part of your heart. Providing support to the entire foster family (foster parents, children in care, adopted and biological children) is what I believe will change the face of foster care.” -Gretchen Dupps
Christy first heard about Cleveland Angels from our current Program Director, Apryl Rashid. After leaving the construction industry, Christy spent time as a stay-at-home mom homeschooling her two oldest children. During that time, she and her husband were active foster parents for 4 years through Cuyahoga County and adopted one of the young girls they fostered into their family. Christy and Apryl met through their foster parent training courses. Apryl shared with Christy about Cleveland Angels and a job opening within the organization. After having closed their home to more foster children, Christy saw that as the perfect opportunity to continue feeding her passion for educating others about foster care and advocating and supporting children and families impacted by the foster care system. Christy started her journey with Cleveland Angels by working as one of our first case managers but transitioned to our Church and Community Engagement Chair on the board in 2019.
As a foster parent herself, Christy knows the flood of emotions that comes with that title. The fear of the unknown, the daunting feeling of being lonely, the joy of creating a better life for children, and the love for the kids and the relationship you create. From personal experience, she knows how important it is to have someone to show up. Whether it be to provide goods, spend time with the kids, converse with the adults, and give the biological kids in the home some extra attention too. It is critical to value and see everyone equally.
“My drive is putting a face to what foster care is. To bring awareness and advocacy to these families. It is so important to have wraparound care for the family. I can remember incidents where my biological children were in need of something and they had to wait because there was something more pressing at the moment. It is important to me that our programs and mission, create an environment for everyone to be seen and everyone to be valued” -Christy rutkowski
For the first year of operation, Cleveland Angels was run by a volunteer working board who helped run the day-to-day operations, fundraise, build relationships and connect within the community. It was, and still is, an all-hands-on-deck community, but we were able to hire our first case manager, Apryl Rashid, in spring of 2019. Working in both roles of President and Executive Director, Gretchen, was managing board work and communications, training the new staff, running day-to-day operations, planning and executing events, and much more. With a growing list of responsibilities, Gretchen felt that Cleveland Angels would benefit from a new balance of leadership as she stepped down from her official position of President of the Board. Christy had become actively involved in many facets of the business and was more than qualified to take on the role of President of the board. Christy and Gretchen now work in tandem to help operate our growing organization.
As President, Christy now leads the board and continues to build relationships and networks within the community. In the role of Executive Director, Gretchen continues to run day-to-day operations, working closely with our case management staff, marketing team, and interns, executes events and outreach initiatives and helps to build our funding base. Gretchen and Christy will continue to work alongside one another; collaborating to build strategic growth plans to further our reach and serve more children. With a working board of 11 people, a growing staff, and large intern classes, Christy and Gretchen will work closely together to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Both Gretchen and Christy are filled with passion and dedication for the mission of the Cleveland Angels. Their commitment and determination are complementary to one another and they hold the staff and board to a high standard of work ethic. Working together, they will grow networks in our community, diversify our volunteer and donor base and increase the impact for children and families in Greater Cleveland.
We are grateful to have Christy step into this new role as President, and look forward to seeing this partnership continue to build and grow Cleveland Angels.