Cari DeSantis Named Melwood President and CEO
Melwood is pleased to announce that Carol Ann “Cari” DeSantis has been named President and Chief Executive Officer. Upper Marlboro-based Melwood, one of the leading nonprofit organizations in Maryland creating opportunities for people with disabilities, enables individuals with disabilities to maximize their independence and inclusion in the community through services such as supported employment, day services, supported living and recreation.
In this role, DeSantis will lead Melwood as it continues to find innovative ways to provide more individuals with disabilities the careful training and compassionate partnership they need to become proud and valuable members of the workforce and their communities. Founded in 1963, Melwood is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
"As we celebrate our 50th year of service, we are thrilled to have someone of Cari's caliber joining the Melwood community as President and CEO,” said Melwood Board of Directors Chairman Donald A. Donahue, Jr., DHEd, MBA, FACHE. “Cari brings the rare combination of understanding the people, devotion to the mission, a well-deserved national reputation, and a passion for serving those with disabilities and their families. Cari will build on Melwood's rich heritage with an eye toward stability, innovation, and excellence."
“I am honored and delighted to join Melwood, with its dynamic history of innovation in creating opportunities and jobs for people with differing abilities,” said Cari DeSantis, who will begin serving her new role on March 1. “Melwood exemplifies the best of social entrepreneurship, and I look forward to honoring the traditions and values that made Melwood the national leader that it is and building on that foundation to create a vibrant future for the next generation.”
"Partnering with Korn/Ferry, we explored a variety of candidates – nonprofit, military, and corporate executives,” said Shelly Gardeniers, Melwood Search Committee Chair and Board Secretary. “Ultimately, we were focused on finding an executive who was passionate about our mission and could lead Melwood into the future while preserving our legacy. Cari's experiences and leadership skills align well with our needs and direction."
“What an incredible opportunity to work with such a dedicated staff, community partners, contract customers and individual consumers,” added DeSantis, “as we work together to further the Melwood mission of inclusion, empowerment and independence for the people we serve.”
Before coming to Melwood, DeSantis headed her own management consulting firm, where she led government and nonprofit agencies in the health and human services sector through organizational transformations and guided them through strategic planning and organizational effectiveness processes.
Prior to her consulting work, DeSantis was executive vice president, public affairs and communications at the Casey Family Programs Foundation, a $2 billion foundation whose mission is to inspire individuals, communities, elected officials, and the media to care about American’s most vulnerable children. From 2001-2008, she served the State of Delaware as cabinet secretary, Department of Services for Children, Youth and Families. As CEO of this large state department, she was responsible for overseeing an annual budget in excess of $175 million and more than 1,300 employees in 30 locations statewide.
DeSantis holds a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (Medical Ethics) from the University of Delaware, where she also received a Bachelor of Arts in English/Journalism. DeSantis is the author of three books, including the 2000 National Independent Publishers Book Award-winning Of Hope and Charity, as well as numerous articles. She also is the recipient of the Service Excellence Award from the American Public Human Services Association, among other individual and organizational awards.
Melwood is a dynamic 501(c)(3) organization that creates jobs and opportunities to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Now celebrating its 50th year, Melwood supports more than 2,400 people with disabilities in the greater Washington, DC area through career training, job placement, individual support, and recreation according to their individual preferences. Melwood employs more than 1,200 people with disabilities at approximately 70 contract sites through partnerships with community employers and through the AbilityOne Program, which pairs federal agencies with approved organizations to provide job opportunities for people with disabilities. Melwood employees with disabilities, otherwise eligible to receive government benefits, earned $13 million and paid $2.7 million in taxes. For more information, visit Melwood on Facebook or at www.melwood.org.