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Safe Passage names Mary Ellen Schaid new executive director

Mary Ellen Schaid, Safe Passage executive director
Mary Ellen Schaid, Safe Passage executive director

DeKALB – Mary Ellen Schaid has been named executive director of Safe Passage, DeKalb County’s domestic violence and sexual assault prevention agency.

A Chicago-area native, Schaid will take over May 1. Deanna Hacker, the organization’s chief financial officer, has been serving as interim director since Linda Moser resigned for health reasons in March 2013.

Lois Self, a Safe Passage board member and head of the search committee, said they made some other changes before finding a new director.

“We went into the search gradually and deliberately,” Self said. “We wanted to build up our board and complete a strategic plan. We took our time with the search.”

Schaid, 59, spent almost 10 years as president and CEO of the Gillis Center, a child and family service agency in Kansas City, Mo., and seven years as executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center in DuPage County. She has a bachelor’s degree from Roosevelt University in Chicago and a master’s degree from Loyola University in Chicago.

Safe Passage, which is funded by government entities as well as private foundations, each year helps hundreds of local people who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and domestic abuse by providing counseling, support programs, and temporary and transitional shelter. It also works to promote community awareness about the causes and effects of domestic abuse and sexual assault and help change laws to support victims.

The search for a new leader was facilitated by Stacy Reynolds of Anchor Associates, who also led the strategic planning process. The search was supported financially by the Roberts Family Foundation, KishHealth System, the National Bank and Trust Company, the DeKalb County Community Foundation and the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

“We’ve taken three or four months to do the search the right way,” Self said. “Our thought was, this is such an important position so we advertised widely, recruited well and found someone who could move the organization to the next level.”

What that means to Schaid, coming from an organization with a budget of about $8 million and a staff of 160, is Safe Passage wants to grow. She said Safe Passage has a budget of about $1.5 million with a staff of about 30 to 35.

“They want to grow, serve more people, add additional programming if appropriate and diversify funding,” Schaid said. “It seems to be a strong organization with a strong history, but like any organization, there are ways to grow and do better.”

Self said the board, staff and members of the search committee all agreed Schaid provided the ideal balance they sought.

“We felt she had significantly the best combination of experience, commitment to the work and administrative expertise,” Self said. “We looked for a director who could work with the staff and had administrative experience.”

Self said the organization was fortunate to have Hacker step up and serve as interim director for a year.

“We were confident she could do the job,” Self said, “but she was ready to return to her position.”

About Mary Ellen Schaid
Past experience:
President and CEO of the Gillis Center in Kansas City, Mo.; executive director of the Children's Advocacy Center in DuPage County
Education: Bachelor's degree in social work from Roosevelt University;  Master's degree in social work from Loyola University

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