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Executive directorChop's Teen Club, 509 Adams St., Santa Rosa 95401; 707-284-2467; chopsonline.com

Age: 48

Residence: Santa Rosa

Professional background: I have expertise in the areas of nonprofit management, board governance, strategic planning, fundraising, marketing, grant writing, developing training curriculum, motivational speaking, program development, human resources, and budgeting. My past career positions include Director of Membership Marketing for the Girl Scouts, Nonprofit Management Consultant, Trainer for the California School-Age Consortium, Adjunct Child Development Faculty at Mendocino College, and Lifestyle Coach and Motivational Speaker for Jenny Craig. 

I am a graduate of Leadership Santa Rosa, Class 27, have served on multiple boards and am currently on the Board of Directors for Tomorrow’s Leaders Today.

Education: Formal: I hold a Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Organization from the University of San Francisco and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Recreation Administration, Community Planning with a Minor in Sociology from the California State University, Chico. Informal: I consider myself a student of life and have come to understand that there is value in every moment.  It may not always go the way I planned and I will always have disappointments, but it is through my toughest challenges that I have learned the most.        

Staff: The Chop’s Teen Club staff have one very important thing in common, they care deeply about teenagers and are invested in their success. Chop’s employs staff trained in youth development, programming and other specialty areas. We currently employ 4 full time and 16 part time staff who work together to carry out the mission of Chop’s Teen Club.   

Describe your organization. Chop’s Teen Club is a prevention based organization that is open opposite of school hours to give teens enriching experiences and opportunities when they are not in school.  The state of the art 21,000 square foot facility houses a gymnasium, climbing wall, tech lounge, art studio, sound recording studio, cafe, nightclub, teaching kitchen and multi-use space that lends itself well for the interests of teens.  Programming is led by trained and experienced youth development staff,  who work with teens because they are invested in their success.  We believe teens are our future and deserve the investment of our time, energy and money.  Chop’s is a unique resource in the community that is specifically designed to meet the changing interests and needs of Santa Rosa teens.  Most cities do not have such a resource.

Chop’s Teen Club is a supporting organization of the Community Foundation Sonoma County.  We are very fortunate that Charles “Chop” DeMeo saw a need for teens to have a place of their own and thus left a portion of his estate for the teens of Santa Rosa.  Because of his legacy gift, we own our beautiful building debt-free and 65% of the annual operating budget is covered. In order to pay for staff, programs and maintain the facility, it is necessary to fundraise for the additional 35%, which currently equates to $250,000.  We are committed to keep the annual membership fee at $1.00 and to offer low cost programs so that ALL teens can afford to participate.  During the summer months we see an average of 75 teens per day and when school is in session, we see an average of 50 teens per day.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I feel extremely blessed to live and work in Santa Rosa with my husband of 16 years, Dan and our 10 year old son Ben.  I love being on this journey through life and have come to accept and understand that what  happens is not actually as important as how we perceive it and move through it. One of the most important things I have learned is not to take anything for granted and to take every opportunity to do what I believe in.  Three years ago I made the decision to donate a kidney to my cousin’s daughter, who is now a 10 year old thriving little girl.  Two years ago our son went through a very serious illness and we could have lost him.  A shift in my mindset transpired with both events; the knowledge that walking through fear ultimately leads to self growth, while vulnerability in life’s precarious moments makes us stronger and underscores the truth that life is precious and fleeting.  I’m happy to say I do my best to seize each day and trust my own power to effect change and make a positive difference.

What is your role in the organization? As the Executive Director, I am the liaison between the Board of Directors who set the broad strategic direction for the organization and the staff who carry out the daily operations to bring the Chop’s mission to life. I lead the process of determining the best way to get where we need to go as an organization and then ensure we have the resources in place to successfully carry out our plans. As the Executive Director, I am ultimately responsible for the overall success of the organization.  

What achievement are you most proud of? I am most proud of leading the process of bringing Charles (Chop) DeMeo’s vision for the teens of Santa Rosa to life.  His vision was for Santa Rosa to have a special place just for teens – a place where they feel valued and are seen as assets to our community. Under my leadership during the past 5 years, Chop’s has transformed into a thriving and sustainable youth serving organization, known in the community for engaging teens through innovative and powerful programs. Chop’s Teen Club now provides a fun, productive and enriching place for an average of 70 teens per day, which equates to over 21,000 teen visits per year.  With the implementation of such programs as the Awesome Pretzel Cart entrepreneurial program, Work Ready Certificate, jobsmadereal.com career guidance website, culinary and barista training and more, Chop’s is also becoming a leader in teen workforce development.  As a long time resident of Santa Rosa, I believe Chop’s is an extremely valuable and unique resource for our community and I feel very fortunate to be in the position to bring it to its full operating potential.    

What is your biggest challenge today? My biggest challenge is balancing my role as a wife and mother with my full time position as an executive director.  Sometimes I am better at it than others, but it is something I am constantly aware of. I think this is an ongoing issue for most working mothers, especially for those of us who feel connected and care deeply for the work we do.    

What is the next major project either under way or on the horizon? It is a very exciting time at Chop’s Teen Club. During the past 4 years, we have substantially increased participation, expanded program offerings, diversified revenue streams and strengthened our Board and staff.   We are utilizing the momentum to continue growing our workforce and leadership programs, as well as our revenue streams to support our growth. 

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years? I think the nonprofit sector is attracting more and more professional and skilled people.  This is important as our demographics change and more services are needed.  We are fortunate in Sonoma County to have a culture of collaboration and I think we will see more synergistic work with initiatives such as Cradle to Career Sonoma County and the Upstream Investments Act. 

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Henry Trione

Current reading: Re-reading (and trying to practice)  The Seven Spiritual Laws to Success    

Most want to meet: Oprah of course! 

Stress relievers: Hangin’ with my family (my husband has a great sense of humor—the kind that makes my belly hurt from laughing), taking the dog for a walk, spending time outdoors, listening to music, spending time with my girlfriends. 

Favorite hobbies: I love outdoor activities such as playing Frisbee at the beach, hiking, riding bikes, camping, swimming, and going on walks with my husband Dan, 10 year old son Ben and our dog, Emma. 

Words that best describe you: Grateful, passionate, generous, leader, community minded, and thoughtful.  

Anything you want to add? I am incredibly honored and humbled to receive the North Bay Business Journal’s Nonprofit Leadership Award and want to thank those who see and understand the value of the work we do at Chop’s Teen Club.