‘A sense of humor comes in handy’: The president of the Adelante Development Center describes what it takes to run a great nonprofit
She has a quiet nature and describes herself as an introvert, but neither of those stopped Rebecca Sanford from dressing up in Diet Coke cans in front of a large audience as part of her recycling fashion show.
The event was sponsored by Adelante Development Center, Inc. , which Sanford headed for nearly two years.
The nonprofit has long provided assistance with job training, coaching, housing, and a variety of other services to people with disabilities and seniors. She also runs a thrift store in Belen and assists seniors with transportation and meals in the Las Cruces area.
Landing her first job at Adelante as Vice President of Human Resources in 2012 was a vision come true for Sanford. She was interested in making a difference through nonprofit work after positions in the city of Rio Rancho and the private sector.
“I’ve always wanted to work in a nonprofit space,” says Sanford. “If someone had asked me years ago what my dream job is, I would have said, ‘I would really like to oversee a large nonprofit. “I am grateful to have found a mission that I am passionate about and with such an amazing group of people. This is an absolutely amazing organization.”
She cites as the success story of a client with an intellectual disability who went into an EmployAbility program in Adelante and got a job at a local grocery store. With Adelante’s constant help, the woman is now an assistant to the deli department manager “who trains everyone how to do their jobs”.
“She’s also great with clients,” says Sanford. “It’s really cool to watch her in action.”
Of the many programs that Adelante oversees, which one is closest to your heart?
“Adelante has a broad and inclusive mission with… so many different programs, so it’s hard to pick one that’s my favorite. But I think the work we do that helps people be as independent as possible and function in the community is really important. Among our programs that Focusing on that, EmployAbility, which helps connect people with disabilities to jobs, and the Ticket to Work program, which helps people receiving[Social Security Disability Benefits]with interview skills, resumes, and the job search.”
Why do you think connecting disadvantaged people with jobs is so important?
“It makes a positive difference in their lives, and the ability to function in the community. I believe that having a job contributes to an individual’s value and purpose. It is crucial that organizations are inclusive and include people with disabilities. We find out what the individual would like to do, and where they would like to do it With that and what are his interests. We try to reconcile the business owner with the individual.”
What made you interested in nonprofit work?
“The opportunity to make a difference. Adelante – our name means ‘progress’ and our goal is to do whatever we can, in any capacity, to…help people move forward in their lives. So the opportunity to make that impact was very attractive to me. It’s something I’ve never had it in the past. I’ve had a great career in the for-profit sector, but I think, like many other people, you’ve come to a point in life where you really want to make a difference.”
What do you do in your free time?
“I enjoy riding my horse. It gives me a real chance to be present with her, just her and the rides. I’m a jogger. When I have time, though my garden doesn’t look like it, I like to work in the yard. Roses mainly. My dad always had He would plant roses when I was growing up and he would pass them on to me.”
You also volunteer with the Cloud Dancers Therapeutic Horsemanship Program. How can this be achieved?
“I just happened to be contacted through various friends who were involved or knew of the organization and I thought they blended two things I’m involved in, namely horses and then supporting people with disabilities through therapeutic riding.”
What made you successful in your life?
“The help and support I’ve received from so many different people throughout my life and throughout my career: mentors, colleagues, people I work with every day, and professors I’ve had. For me, I have to be a good listener, be thoughtful, and a good problem solver. Spirit Humor at hand.”
What are the difficulties you encountered?
“The challenge for Adelante in general is staffing. We have a great staff for the long haul, but finding additional staff — just like any other employer across the state — limits our ability to expand services. Personally, I’d say I’ve been very lucky.” “In life, but the challenge for me was taking care of my mom. She had dementia…and providing that care and support for her remotely was a challenge. Like so many people who have gone through this chapter of life, this is a difficult chapter.”
How do you deal with difficulty?
“I try not to assign good or bad situations to different situations, and I try to approach them, good or bad, in the same way. Analyze them, look at them, think about the approach and look for a way forward, no matter how difficult it may be.”
How do you brag?
What has proven to be good advice for you?
From Mahatma Gandhi: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow.” Learn as if you live forever.'”
Describe yourself in three words.
“Optimistic, thoughtful and flexible.”