Anita Maldonado of Santa Rosa’s SAY wins a North Bay Business Journal Nonprofit Leadership Award
Professional background: I have worked in the social services field since 1997, including executive roles at California Human Development, IMPACT Community Action, Girl Scouts of North East Ohio, and Akron Summit Community Action.
I also served as an adjunct faculty in the Pan African Department at Kent State University and am currently an adjunct faculty member in the MPA program at Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio.
Education: Ph.D. in higher education administration from Kent State University; master’s degree in public administration from the University of Akron.
Number of staff: 99
Describe your organization: Social Advocates for Youth is Sonoma County’s leader in serving local homeless and disconnected youth. For almost fifty years, SAY has provided supportive services to thousands of youth and their families, meeting them where they are and when they need us the most. We focus on four foundational pillars of service: Youth Crisis Services (YCS), housing, careers, and counseling.
A few of the programs that SAY operates include: the only dedicated teen shelter and young adult (ages 18-25) shelter between San Francisco and the Oregon border; the only youth crisis hotline in the county, staffed year-round 24/7; and the only affordable tattoo removal program (Clean Slate) in the county.
We provide mental health services (currently via telehealth) both in our Medi-Cal Clinic and in eight middle and high schools in Santa Rosa, as well as offering wellness groups for youth.
Our Career Services team helps youth develop work and life readiness skills. And we also operate multiple housing models that include affordable housing, community-based housing, and housing for pregnant and parenting youth.
These wraparound services are available across Sonoma County.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I am a woman, Latina, mother, daughter, sister, grandmother, mentor, teacher, professional and friend...
I was born in Lorain, Ohio to parents who migrated from Puerto Rico. I am one of three children and come from a close knit family where we learned the value of hard work, education, honesty and compassion. I am a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Sorority, Inc., an international service organization that is founded on the mission to cultivate and encourage high scholastics and ethical standards among college women.
My life has been greatly enriched by my upbringing, friends, family and the kindness and encouragement from my inner circle. All of these experiences and values have shaped how I choose to live my life today.
What is your role in the organization?
I joined SAY in March of 2020, where I am proud to provide oversight to SAY programs, services, and operations as well as support to SAY’s volunteer Board of Directors.
How has your organization been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Like every nonprofit organization in the county, our programs had to make some huge pivots in response to the COVID pandemic.
The need to shelter-in-place amplifies many of the challenges that our young people already face. Youth who are experiencing homelessness are at a greater risk for health concerns and for youth living in households with unhealthy family dynamics, the inability to access safe spaces such as schools and libraries creates even more stress and anxiety.
SAY is an essential business, and we never stopped providing services to our young people. Many of our programs pivoted to online and virtual services, such as telehealth appointments for our counseling department and virtual job support for our careers team.
We also helped youth navigate through the process of applying for unemployment and essential job opportunities. Our shelter and housing services continued to house young people, and our Street Outreach Team continued providing drop-in hours and supplying hygiene kits (now equipped with masks and sanitizer!) to those with little access to these vital items.
What are the ways your organization responded to increased demands for services, and fiscally, in what has your organization been forced to adjust?
In addition to adjusting our services to young people (as outlined above), SAY also has pivoted its fundraising program: in-person fundraising events—that so many organizations rely upon for funding—are not possible during a global pandemic.
Instead, we have reimagined our approach to connecting with investors one-on-one. Our current 3-40 Campaign highlights how we are using virtual tools, sponsorships, and peer-to-peer fundraising in response to the changing environment.
What achievement are you most proud of?
I am most proud of how the people of Sonoma County, the community, and the SAY Board of Directors and the organization have come together and welcomed me. This, coupled with leading a team of professionals who are respected and known experts in serving youth and families, makes me most proud of the decision I made to make Sonoma County my home.