After 22 years, she transformed Homelessness + Recovery services in Richmond
CARITAS President & CEO Karen Stanley is set to retire December 31, 2022. During 22 years at the helm of one of Richmond’s largest human service providers, Stanley not only transformed an organization, but the entire Greater Richmond Region.
What began as a small but mighty network of congregational volunteers providing emergency shelter is now a five-program nonprofit that serves thousands of men and women annually. More than 300 local community partners are intertwined with and rely on CARITAS’s innovative programs. Community leaders look to CARITAS for answers and solutions when times are especially tough. CARITAS has grown into one of the country’s most comprehensive providers of services to people experiencing homelessness and addiction.
“The fact that CARITAS has grown to be home for so many men and women in their most challenging times is one of my proudest achievements,” Stanley says.
“Karen Stanley is an inspiring leader and a good soul,” says Greg Suskind, chair of the Board of Directors. “Karen has touched so many lives directly, and she has built CARITAS into a sustainable institution that will continue serving people for generations to come. She has done it all with a kind heart, a ready smile, and an intense drive to get things done. She has achieved remarkable things.”
Stanley came to the organization as a board member who had been a volunteer with her congregation. During the 1980s, this network of volunteers opened congregations to provide overnight shelter to Richmonders experiencing homelessness during the winter. As the need for shelter grew and became more complex, Stanley stepped up to lead the way.
Stanley took on the official role as Executive Director of CARITAS in 2000. Over the next two decades, Stanley led the evolution and growth of CARITAS. Taking on yet another community challenge, CARITAS added recovery services to its program offerings under Stanley’s leadership. In 2007 she took on the dual role as Executive Director of The Healing Place, a long-term residential recovery program for men struggling with substance use disorders. Five years later, The Healing Place became an official program of CARITAS. Other program additions followed: the CARITAS Furniture Bank (2008), CARITAS Works (2011), and finally The Healing Place for Women and the Recovery Residences (2020).
Over time, CARITAS became the largest homeless and recovery services organization in the metro Richmond area, serving more than 3,300 people each year. Today, the organization has a $7 million annual operating budget and employs 50 full-time and 50 part-time staff , with the support of thousands of volunteers and donors.
“Karen’s ability to envision the CARITAS Center is a sign of her powerful leadership,” says Dena Moore, past Board Chair. “Her skill in bringing together the many partners, investors, financing sources, and staff needed to make that vision a reality was incredible to witness. And the fact that she and her team managed to complete this project and get it open during a pandemic is something everyone in Richmond should be grateful for.”
The 150,000-square-foot renovated tobacco plant is a physical representation of her legacy. The $28 million CARITAS Center on Stockton Street opened in 2020, bringing together all of the solutions for homelessness and addiction under one roof.
“It’s bittersweet to leave an organization and people that I love, but the timing couldn’t be better. CARITAS is financially stable, we’ve just completed a strategic plan and have a strong depth of leadership to carry it into the future,” says Stanley.
Stanley is known for continually reminding people that real lives are behind the numbers.
“It warms my heart when the light comes back on in somebody’s eyes, and that hope returns,” she says. “That has kept me going over the years. I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many people who demonstrate every day that ‘love’ is a verb—it’s an action, a thing to do. I will always be grateful to this community for welcoming me to Richmond years ago, and I hope I have been able to continue sharing the love that so many people have shown me.”
The Board of Directors has retained BoardWalk Consulting to conduct a nationwide search for CARITAS’s next President & CEO. Specialists in nonprofit CEO recruitment, the firm has extensive experience in Virginia. Further details on the search will be published by early October.
About Karen Stanley: Karen has been working in the non-profit sector for more than 30 years as both a volunteer and a staff member. Karen has a Bachelor’s of Science from Oklahoma State University and is a 2007 graduate of Leadership Metro Richmond. Karen’s awards and honors include: the Stettinius Award for Non-Profit Leadership, United Way’s “Champion for Change” of 2008, 2010 YWCA Outstanding Woman Award, 2010 Better Housing Coalition’s Creative Collaborator Award, Richmond Magazine’s Bold Women of 2020, 2021 Richmond Times-Dispatch Person of the Year Honoree, and the Leadership Metro Richmond’s Ukrop Community Vision Award in 2022. Karen has served as an appointed member of the Governor’s Advisory Board on Service and Volunteerism and on the boards of Homeward and Leadership Metro Richmond.