Chicago-based nonprofit One Hope United appointed a new president/CEO in Januaryand it marked the first time in the child and family services organization's 124-year history that an openly gay Black man has led the organization.
Charles Montorio-Archer, a New York nonprofit entrepreneur, child and family advocate, attorney and author, started as president and CEO on Jan. 22. He succeeds Todd Schultz, who remains on One Hope's executive leadership team as the chief transition officer.
Montorio-Archer said the path to him becoming the organization's first gay, Black president and CEO was paved by the diversity of its board members and the LGBTQ+ people serving at various parts of the organization.
"When I look at One Hope and who we connect with in service and employment, I see that I am all of those people at different points of my life," he said. "Coming here and having the opportunity to not feel hidden or lessened is empowering, because I'm now in a position to make sure that young black people, LGBTQ+ people or people from various other backgrounds feel seen."
One Hope United was founded in Chicago in 1895 and has grown to serve more than 9,000 children and families annually across Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and Florida. Its services include education, foster care, adoption, housing and other forms of support. As CEO and president, Montorio-Archer plans to expand these programs to better serve LGBTQ+ and other marginalized communities, while also boosting the brand's national profile.
"We should become leaders and influencers in how these services are provided by not just connecting with children and families in a traditional sense," Montorio-Archer said. "We need to also serve people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, LGBT people, seniors, veterans and other groups we haven't traditionally talked to, because life without limits is for everyone."
Montorio-Archer got his start in advocacy in 1996 when he co-founded the THRIVE Network, a nonprofit organization serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in New York. By the time he left THRIVE last year, the organization had grown to serve more than 13,000 people annually, he said.
Montorio-Archer also served as the assistant district attorney in Kings County, Brooklyn, New York, from 2001 to 2004, before serving as the associate executive director for the InterAgency Council of Developmental Disabilities Agencies. In that role, he advocated for program development, business sustainability and policy and regulatory reform at the city, state and federal levels, according to a press release from One Hope United.
"I've spent the last 28 years advocating for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as for civil rights, equal rights and access rights for groups that are voiceless, disenfranchised or marginalized," Montorio-Archer said. "What drew me to One Hope was its rich history, strong foundation and potential to grow and become something different."
One Hope United Board Chair Theresa Dear said the national search committee for a new president and CEO unanimously agreed he was the best candidate.
"I think that Charles will transform the organization by opening the doors of One Hope United even wider," Dear said. "The mission of One Hope United will now cover a broader and larger community, and the realization of our mission and brand will be elevated and enhanced significantly under his leadership."
Since starting at One Hope United, Montorio-Archer has spent lots of his time visiting the organization's programs to meet youth, families and employees, he said. He's done "ride-alongs" with various staff members to see the organization in action.
"Those are the types of things that re-energize me and remind me why I do the work that I do," he said.
Montorio-Archer has also started planning the organization's first "Hope After Dark," a dance party aiming to introduce a new demographic and generation of people to One Hope United. The event will take place after the governing board's annual fundraising conference, "Hope In Action," on May 3.
The organization will also host its fourth annual "Go Blue 4 OHU Restaurant Collective" fundraiser in April for National Child Abuse Prevention Month. More than 50 participating restaurants will feature specialty menu items and donate a portion of their sales to One Hope United.
Montorio-Archer said he also hopes to secure a spot in the 2019 Chicago Pride Parade for One Hope United, and he is looking forward to seeing the organization engage more with the LGBTQ community.
"I want the LGBT community to think about advocacy beyond just LGBT people and realize that in advocating for children and families as a whole, you are also advocating for LGBT people," he said. "There are gay people who don't have access to things in the same way that there are African Americans and Latinos who don't have access, and there's power in advocating together."
A list of participating restaurants and other information on One Hope's "Go Blue 4 OHU Restaurant Collective" can be found at OneHopeUnited.org/GoBlue.