It’s a daunting task to head up a non-profit organization that is literally in constant need. And much of the need is precipitated by violence, abuse and neglect. Add to it that this organization serves over 5,000 people annually who are in desperate need of help and stabilization. The nonprofit that does this is the Family & Children’s Place, and the woman who heads this organization is Pamela Darnall, who wears many hats there, but the biggest one is fundraiser. For her, “No money means no mission,” so she uses her background as a social worker in Child Protective Services to raise money for this very crucial organization. She is focused, disciplined and strategic, and she uses all of these qualities when she runs her marathons as well. With this woman supporting you, you know you are in good hands. Meet today’s FACE of Louisville, Pamela Darnall, President of the Family & Children’s Place.
Give us a brief description of what the Family & Children’s Place does.
Family & Children’s Place is a nonprofit that has helped families in the greater Louisville and Southern Indiana region for more than 130 years. Our mission is to protect and heal children and families. We envision happy, healthy children and families, freed from abuse.
We help children and their families recover from trauma and abuse, and educate families and the community to prevent abuse and family violence.
We are a multi-service agency serving over 5,000 people annually, providing a continuum of care for many issues families face:
- Our Kosair Child Advocacy center helps children exposed to sexual abuse.
- Counseling services help children and families to overcome effects of abuse and neglect.
- Hands services provide guidance and coaching for expecting and new parents to help prevent abuse/neglect.
- Family Stabilization helps assure families who are at risk of homelessness have safe, stable housing.
- Family & School Services increases parent engagement and improves academic performance.
- PAL reduces youth violence and drug use through community engagement.
How did you get started in this industry?
Initially, I wanted to be an accountant and in college quickly realized that was not a good fit. I realized my work life needed to be meaningful and worthwhile and make a difference in the community. While working full-time with Child Protective Services in Louisville working with families with significant violence and other crises, I earned a Masters at Spalding University. I then went to Family Place, and became the Executive Director from 2002 to 2008. Another agency director and I merged our two separate agencies in 2008 to form Family & Children’s Place. I have been in the human services sector for 32 years.
You say “no money, no mission,” meaning that you are essentially a fundraiser for your business. How have you been able to change hats from a social worker to a fundraiser?
As an agency CEO I quickly learned that my job was to assure we have funding and resources needed. I truly believe many people want to help others in need. We give people the opportunity to change the lives of children and families. The return on investment for those who support our work is children and families who are happier, safer and healthier, which improves our entire community.
“Nonprofit” is a tax status. To be effective and sustainable, nonprofits must have enough resources not only to provide services, but to maintain a solid infrastructure to assure sustainability. People who support Family & Children’s Place develop a relationship built on trust that the organization is managed well with appropriate oversight and leadership and is not mismanaged.
What is something we can do to assist your agency now during the holidays and year-round?
Help spread the word. Raising awareness of the challenges so many children and families face is critical. It is difficult to hear about child abuse, family violence, homelessness and other vulnerabilities families face. The community needs to understand the pervasiveness of the issues and know about the services that help prevent and stop child abuse and family violence. When we do, our entire community benefits.
What is the hardest part of your job, and what is the easiest?
The hardest is getting the resources to continue the work. Often people assume state or federal funding covers all the costs because our services focus on children and families impacted by child abuse and trauma. And this simply is not so.
The easiest is sharing the great work/mission of the agency — from the very moment children and families receive their first visit, counseling session or first walk into our doors, they have already begun their journey to finding the hope and healing they so desperately need and deserve.
Give us a peek at your agenda. What’s a typical day or week like for you?
My day typically begins around 7 a.m. returning important email messages. I often have meetings throughout most of my day with donors and external community committee meetings, focused on families/children. I serve on 10 external committees and have leadership roles in several of these. Included are the Kosair Charities Face It Initiative to End Child Abuse; International Women’s Forum of Kentucky; National Alliance for Strong Families and Communities Resource Committee; Healthy Babies Louisville Advisory Committee; Community Shield; and several United Way committees.
Our Board of Directors and Board Committees each meet six times annually, so much of my time is spent with our Board and their committees.
A typical work day is 10 hours, average 50-55 hours per week. And 70-80% of my time is in the community, working with other organizations, networking and promoting the work of Family & Children’s Place.
What advice do you treasure?
Treat others the way you want to be treated. It doesn’t matter who gets credit as long as we are successful.
Fill in the blank. You’ll never see me without my __________.
Running shoes in the car.
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
I run a lot and often at Iroquois Park. Running is great stress management and results in positive health benefits. I have completed 24 marathons, including all 15 of the Derby Marathons and the New York Marathon.
Favorite thing to do in Louisville?
Are you a night owl or early bird? What do you do during that quiet time?
Definitely early bird. I like getting to work early while it is quiet. I also am up early some days to get a run in before work and a long run on Saturdays.
Tell us some of your favorite local restaurants.
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
Lightning Round! Give us your:
Candy or junk food splurge: chocolate
Guilty pleasure song: Earth Wind & Fire’s “Let’s Groove Tonight”
Tearjerker movie pick: Silver Linings Playbook and Good Will Hunting
Standby nail polish color: none
Favorite cocktail: Lemon Drop martini
Cartoon alter-ego: Atomic Betty — not very interested in popularity, rather is focused on trying to help the world, preserving peace, integrity and battles evil!
What are three of your favorite things right now aside from faith, family and friends?
- The fall weather is great for being outside
- Planning for Christmas — this is the first Christmas I actually get to spend with my husband. He spends the holidays with his children and grandchildren who are in Kentucky. I usually spend Christmas with my parents in Charlotte, but this year they will be here in Louisville for the holidays, so we will spend the time together.
- I recently upgraded from a really old 1997 vehicle to a Honda that has Bluetooth, which helps with making the most of my time in the car, and I love the Sirius radio. After driving a really old car without such features for many years, something this simple is so helpful!
It’s Christmas season, so if you would like to donate to make someone’s holiday at the Family & Children’s Place merrier, click here.
Thank you to Adele Reding Photography for the wonderful photos.
Read about more inspiring women in Louisville in our FACES of Louisville weekly features here.