SACA: Sarah DeSantis steps up to lead

April 2017 Posted in Community
SACA’s new executive director Sarah DeSantis.

SACA’s new executive director Sarah DeSantis.

By Sheldon Traver

Silverton resident Sarah DeSantis has personally seen what living in poverty means for many Silverton area residents.

She started volunteering for Silverton Area Community Aid two years ago and was on the front lines of helping people get the food they needed. Last year she was appointed to its board of directors. On April 5, she will begin work as the executive director of the non-profit.

DeSantis has a background in social services. She previously served as a child case worker for the Oregon Department of Human Services. She also worked as an advocate for a non-profit helping survivors of sexual assault.

“I had a lot of empathy for the people I worked with,” she said. “The experiences helped me become a strong advocate. I also learned how to be calm and a good listener. I’m thoughtful and passionate.”

Two years ago she was working in information technology for the state and was laid off. DeSantis used some of the free time to volunteer at SACA. When she was rehired for a temporary IT position with the state that ended in December, she knew her passion for social work had been reignited.

“SACA seemed like a natural fit for me,” DeSantis said.

Board President Andy Bellando said there were approximately 20 applicants for the job and three formal interviews.

“We were looking for someone with visionary leadership,” he said. “We wanted someone who could navigate SACA into the near future.”

“Sarah not only brings job-related skills, but skills related to people and her clients,” he added. “She is very service minded.”

DeSantis said the experience and compassion of SACA’s four employees were pivotal during the four-month search for a new executive director. They will be an important part of her transition to the job.

“The staff has done an amazing job since Teresa (Warriner) stepped down,” she said. “I really have full faith in them as I step into the role.”

Among her first priorities is to develop relationships in the community and with outside organizations.

DeSantis said she has a strong network of people within Silverton to help her, but would like people with grant writing skills to volunteer their time and teach her how to write successful grant proposals.

Bellando said DeSantis will help the SACA board review its mission and vision statement and update it if needed.

DeSantis’ new role required her to step down from the SACA board. There are currently three vacancies. Bellando said the board intends to review its process for appointing new members during its April and May meetings.

The public is invited to provide input for this discussion by emailing bellando_andy@silverfalls.k12.or.us or saca.director@frontier.com.

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