This winter, Deborah’s Place celebrated Chief Strategy Officer Kathy Booton-Wilson’s 30th work anniversary. In 1985, Kathy was five years out of college and working in the accounting department of a larger nonprofit when a friend convinced her to try volunteering at Deborah’s Place. She started volunteering on Friday nights at the overnight shelter, and the experience was so powerful that it changed the course of her life forever. “Doing the overnights, you’d really get to know the women,” Kathy explains. “Because a lot of the time people didn’t sleep, they would just sit up and want someone to talk to.” Their stories were so inspiring that Kathy realized she wanted to change her career.
In December 1987, Kathy was hired as Administrative Assistant, one of five total employees. But it wasn’t long before she was taking on more and more responsibility—just one month after she started, the Executive Director had to take a medical leave and she was promoted to Director of Finance and Administration. She didn’t know it yet, but she was on the path to executive leadership.
Her first three years working at Deborah’s Place, Kathy worked full-time and earned her Masters in Social Work at night. She became Program Administrator of Case Management and Therapeutic Services and then Clinical Director, managing her own caseload as well as supervising the other case managers. When Deborah’s Place started providing permanent housing, she transitioned to Director of Supportive Housing and added property management to her plate. When Sister Pat Crowley retired, she became Chief Operating Officer and finally, Chief Strategy Officer, the position she maintains today.
Reflecting on her 30 years devoted to Deborah’s Place, Kathy continues to be inspired by the women and the mission. “It’s never the same…every day is different,” she says. “I’ve never been bored. There’s always something exciting going on.”
In her free time, Kathy volunteers at the city animal shelter, and recently she became President of the Friends of Chicago Animal Care and Control (FCACC). When she’s not volunteering, she likes to spend time with her dad.