Len Marabella of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa wins a North Bay Business Journal Nonprofit Leadership Award
Professional background: Prior career in technology working in the aerospace and in the commercial lasers industries. Positions included management of R&D, new product development, engineering management, and product marketing. Volunteer at Catholic Charities beginning in 2012, supporting strategic planning, accreditation, homeless outreach services. Became board member in 2013, and then employed as executive director/CEO in 2014.
Education: Bachelor of Science in chemistry, Canisius College, Buffalo, NY; Ph.d. in physical chemistry, Indiana University; Post-doctoral Research, MIT
Number of staff: 218
Describe your organization: Inspired by the love and teachings of Christ, we serve, and advocate for vulnerable people of all cultures and beliefs, prioritizing those experiencing poverty. We envision a more just and compassionate community in which all people can create a life of dignity and achieve their full potential.
Our team meets local community needs by providing housing, immigration, homeless prevention, and disaster recovery services. These data-driven programs build on best practices established and improved upon year after year.
In the last year, we’ve permanently housed over 850 people, successfully processed over 600 DACA renewals, served 415,000 meals at food distributions, provided over 17,500 check-in calls to isolated homebound seniors, and helped navigate nearly $810,000 dollars in diversion assistance money like rental assistance.
All are welcome to receive services from, be employed by, or volunteer with Catholic Charities regardless of religious affiliation.
Our organization does not discriminate against any employee or applicant because of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, membership or activity in a local human rights commission, or status with regard to public assistance. We support, educate, create opportunities for, and ensure the wellbeing of our staff for the betterment of those most in need.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: My background is very unique for this position.
I spent most of my career in the laser industry working in aerospace, commercial lasers, and consulting. When working as independent consultant, I had the need, and the opportunity, to give back through Catholic Charities. My technical and business career surprisingly prepared me for this job – managing people, complex budget, managing government-funded programs, acquisition of funding, marketing and so on.
One of my main achievements was winning and managing a major program funded by the Department of Defense to apply government-developed laser technology to industrial application though a consortium of more than 20 companies and universities. That was quite a ride!
But my business career was missing something fundamental, I needed to give back, to help those in need. The call of the gospel to help our neighbors drew me to Catholic Charities to serve as a volunteer.
Soon I joined the board of directors. When my predecessor left, I accepted the position as interim executive director, fully expecting a 3-month commitment. Well, once I became so involved, I knew that this is what I must do.
So, I became a candidate for the position, and now I have been CEO for CCDSR in Santa Rosa since 2014. I gratefully acknowledge that my Jesuit education, the message of Pope Francis, the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, amazing staff members, and the long volunteer work of his wife, Pat, brought me to this amazing place. It’s the best job I’ve ever had.
What is your role in the organization?
Chief Executive Officer – My job is to provide guidance and leadership to an amazing staff.
They are the subject experts. I see my role as clearing the path and securing adequate resources, so the true experts are able to address the needs of the most vulnerable in our community.
That’s what it’s all about, delivering services to those in need to help them create a life of dignity and help them achieve their full potential. I am inspired by the message of Pope Francis and the gospel to go out and tend to those who are in need that will bring true joy in your heart. I try to convey that message of joy to our team.
How has your organization been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
We are responsible more than 450 shelter beds and our first concern was the safety of our residents and our staff.
Safety protocols were quickly established and implemented for our shelters and all front-line staff members. The city of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County quickly recognized the need to respond to the need for social distancing and we moved some people from shelter to new non-congregate living locations. In addition, with Santa Rosa, we established the Finley site to accommodate the most vulnerable people who were without shelter.