Karen Parker's Letter to the Community On Her Transition
January 26, 2023
Dear Safe Alliance Family,
Today I am filled with gratitude, excitement and a bit of sadness as I write to share that I will be stepping down as President & CEO of Safe Alliance on June 30th. My 21 years at this amazing agency, including almost nine years as President & CEO, have been meaningful beyond words. This special place has offered me so many unique opportunities supervising programs, leading the fundraising and development team and eventually leading the entire organization. It is such a blessing to go to work every day at an agency whose mission aligns so closely with my personal values and I'm incredibly thankful to have had this opportunity.
The decision to take this next step in my professional journey comes after careful thought, reflection and planning with our Board of Directors. Several years ago, upon my 30-year anniversary in the anti-domestic and sexual violence movement, I began considering a shift away from 24/7 crisis work toward new types of social change/justice efforts. After June 30th, I will stay employed with Safe Alliance over the next year working on strategic projects (including The Umbrella Center) and supporting leaders as they assume their new positions. While no longer serving as the public face of Safe Alliance, I'll continue working behind the scenes to ensure a smooth transition and will always be the agency's biggest cheerleader! After that transition year, I look forward to exploring new opportunities!
It has been an absolute honor to know and work with all of you and I could not be more proud of the positive impact that we've made together in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community! While Safe Alliance has been a strong and trusted organization for over 114 years, we've also coupled these qualities with a bold drive to continuously create and innovate based on the guidance of those with lived experience. In my time with Safe Alliance we served over 150,000 survivors of domestic and sexual violence. We completed Safe Alliance's first capital campaign, raising over $8M to build the Clyde and Ethel Dickson Domestic Violence Shelter. We expanded our Victim Assistance Court program providing increased court support and created the Legal Representation Project to offer free legal representation. We grew our Sexual Trauma Resource Center to provide more comprehensive support to survivors of sexual violence throughout the life span. We created the 24/7 Greater Charlotte Hope Line offering domestic violence, sexual assault and parenting support. And, most recently, we opened the Survivor Resource Center, the precursor to our full Family Justice Center. We also launched The Umbrella Center campaign. Throughout all of these important initiatives we've intentionally focused on dismantling systems and beliefs that sustain poverty, racism, and gender-based violence. We've critically assessed our work, educated ourselves, asked the uncomfortable questions and made it a top priority to implement continuous practice change. I'm so proud of our team for their perseverance we know there is still much to do but we also know we're moving in the right direction.
There are many fond memories and accomplishments that mark our time together, but the most important things I will always remember about Safe Alliance center around the people.
So what is next for Safe Alliance? We are embarking upon one of the most exciting times in our history as we partner with Mecklenburg County, the City of Charlotte and local nonprofits to build The Umbrella Center. We've raised $25MM toward our capital campaign goal of $35MM and look forward to breaking ground on a renovation and expansion for the new center very soon! The Safe Alliance Board of Directors wholeheartedly embraces this effort and made it their top priority to appoint our next leader who has the knowledge, experience and passion to carry forth this important project and all of the critical Safe Alliance services.
- To the survivors Your courage, resilience and the love you show our community by telling your story and offering hope to others is what inspires me every day. Throughout my career you have educated me, let me know when I was off track and continued to demonstrate patience, wisdom and encouragement. Thank you for allowing me to learn from you and be a part of this movement!
- To our Board of Directors How do I even begin to thank you? I appreciate your guidance, counsel and the many ways you've offered support throughout my tenure with Safe Alliance. There are much easier gigs you could have chosen to give back to the community! Safe Alliance is a large and complex nonprofit and assuming fiduciary responsibility for the agency is a tremendous commitment. I am truly blessed to have been surrounded by such caring and competent community leaders. Thank you for entrusting me with this labor of love!
- To our volunteers and financial supporters - You are some of the most passionate, selfless and committed members of our community. You rise up time and time again generously donating your hours, skills and financial resources to support others in their time of crisis and beyond. You give Safe Alliance the strength and capacity to meet the needs of so many and I can't thank you enough for your enduring support.
- To our community partners - Some of my greatest joys in this work have occurred when collaborating with governmental, corporate and other nonprofit partners. Your willingness to engage, search together for solutions, and put the people we serve first has been key in reducing violence and building a more peaceful community. We're so fortunate to work arm-in-arm with you and I deeply appreciate you all.
- To the Safe Alliance staff - It has been a privilege to work alongside each of you every day. Your creativity, enthusiasm and commitment to end domestic and sexual violence is unparalleled. There are not many people in the world who take on 24/7 crisis anti-violence work and you all do it every day with immense strength, kindness and grace. You are transforming our community and building peace one person at a time. I'm so grateful to each of you for allowing me to be a part of your journey.
I am thrilled to share that our Chief Operating Officer and Legal Counsel, Laura Lawrence, will be the next President & CEO of Safe Alliance! I've had the pleasure of working with Laura for the past 12 years, and she is one of the smartest, most qualified and compassionate leaders in our nonprofit community and has a true heart for this work. Her programmatic leadership and high involvement in our family justice center efforts have well prepared her for this new role. Those of you who know Laura will appreciate our board's wisdom in selecting her to lead the agency. And if you have not met Laura yet, I look forward to introducing you to her in the coming months. Laura will lead the agency with a strong and diverse executive team. I'm so excited to pass the torch to this phenomenal group of leaders and can't wait to see all they will accomplish in the years to come!
I'll leave you with a quote from Harriet Tubman that is especially relevant to our work at Safe Alliance...
Every dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
Thanks to each of you for dreaming of a safer, heathier and more peaceful community--- because of you it will be so!
In peace, equity and deep gratitude,
Safe Alliance, President & CEO