Co-Executive Director of SAFE Alliance
Kelly White has spent her entire adult life in public service, working on behalf of families, businesses, schools and communities. She is known as a change-agent and a problem solver, repeatedly taking on organizations as they have dealt with major restructuring and transformation associated with internal and external factors. She has successfully led three different mergers of non-profit agencies, multiple capital campaigns, program restructurings and building projects.
Kelly is a native of Dodge City and a graduate of University of Kansas, beginning her career as an Occupational Therapist working in Northwest Kansas with early intervention programs for children with developmental and physical disabilities. In the decades since, she has led non-profits in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois, and Texas. She came to Austin in 1993 to become the executive director of the Center for Battered Women and in 1998 she led the merger of that organization with the Austin Rape Crisis Center, creating SafePlace. She spent a decade as the executive director of SafePlace, leading the efforts to fund and build the supportive housing apartment community, resource center, on-site school and child development center, as well as the 105-bed family shelter. She also worked to create the structure to fund, design and build Grove Place Apartments, a 184-unit, permanent, affordable housing community adjacent to the SAFE campus. When Kelly left her position as executive director at the end of 2003, the shelter was renamed the Kelly White Family Shelter in recognition of her work with the organization, an extraordinary honor for Kelly, a formerly battered woman who had once stayed in a shelter with her two young sons.
She accepted the leadership position at the Chicago Foundation for Women, a grant making and advocacy organization dedicated to making smart connection between need, money, and solutions on behalf of women and girls in the Greater Chicago area. However, community recruitment efforts brought her back to Austin in 2010, and she took the helm at Austin Children’s Shelter as the organization dealt with the move to its new 13-acre, purpose-built campus in East Austin at the same time as the Texas system for child protection went through major restructuring, dramatically impacting services and funding.
Though hired for her management expertise, it was her personal experiences that fueled her early passion. After working for years with survivors of sexual assault, child abuse, and domestic violence, it is now the experiences with the extraordinary survivors she has met along the way that keep her focused on breaking down the silos between those issues and creating a continuum of care that can end generational patterns of violence and abuse. A great day for Kelly is when she gets a big smile and a hug from a former client that is doing well.
Business Leadership Week
Tuesday, February 22, 2022
5:15 – 6:15 PM
McCoy Hall 222