After 10 years of working with us, our much-loved Chief Operating Officer Molly Moen is leaving the Downtown Women's Center. We gathered messages from a few of her many friends in our community to honor her incredible contributions over the years, and chatted with her about her time at the Center.
"Dear Molly, Thank you for your tremendous work over these past ten years at DWC. Your outstanding work and commitment to the women you have served is truly inspirational. All best." -Fred Ali, President and CEO, The Weingart Foundation
"It’s been great to have Molly at DWC for so long. She’s always been a strong and clear voice on behalf of women who call Skid Row home. She’s brightened the lives of many hundreds of women that she’s touched through the years. Good luck Molly!!" -Mike Alvidrez, Executive Director, Skid Row Housing Trust
"Molly, it has been a pleasure working with you and your team at Downtown Women’s Center. Whether interacting with community members, your own staff, foundation representatives, or the incredible women who access DWC services every day, you bring compassion and heart into everything you do. You are the true embodiment of DWC’s mission. We will miss you, but wish you the best of luck in your next endeavor!" -The Ralph M. Parsons Team
Molly, can you give a little background about how you first came to DWC and your history with us?
Working in public health, I had seen how hard it was for individuals to maintain their health without a stable place to live; I wanted to be a part of the solution by joining an organization that was housing people. I have always been passionate about empowering women, as well, so when I saw the posting for a Development Director at DWC, I felt my two passions had come together in the perfect job. I studied up on DWC and discovered how innovative it was – the only organization exclusively serving women on Skid Row, the first permanent supportive housing provider for women in the US, an advocate for raising awareness about homeless women through its Needs Assessment and Best Practices research – and I became even more excited. Then I walked in the door for my interview, sat on the sofa in the Day Center, and talked to the women.
I knew I was home. That was ten years ago, but I remember that feeling like it was yesterday. This was the place I needed to be.
DWC was about to undertake its $35-million capital campaign for Project Home. Although I had worked in fundraising for nearly four years, I had never done anything on that scale before. But DWC is a special organization. We know how critical the work we are doing to end homelessness among women is, so we set audacious goals, rally the entire community to support our efforts, and empower everyone in our community – be they residents, participants, volunteers, staff, donors, or partners – to be a part of making that change happen. And it worked. We are sitting now in our beautiful San Pedro Street home.
What has been your favorite memory from your time at DWC?
I have so many amazing memories from the past ten years. The grand opening of our San Pedro Street home, where we rolled out the red carpet for the women, and then, two years later, the grand re-opening of our Los Angeles Street site, where we cut the ribbon to welcome women home. Every time a woman received a key to her new apartment, got a job, or found her voice. There have been moments to celebrate every day.
Above left: DWC participant Pam W. gives Molly a hug at Molly's last Day Center Community Meeting.
Above right: Molly and DWC staff celebrate the grand opening of the new San Pedro Street building in 2010.
I also really love the holidays at DWC. At our original home on Los Angeles Street, I used to organize a small group of volunteers on Thanksgiving. We would arrive at 6am and prepare and bake dozens of pies in the community kitchens throughout the Residence. Not only would we be providing a delicious dessert for our Thanksgiving meals in the Day Center and Residence, but we would leave the Residence smelling of fresh baked pie, and nothing says “home” to me like that!
Can you speak to how you have seen DWC develop over the years?
DWC is both dramatically different and remarkably unchanged from the organization I encountered ten years ago. From a numbers standpoint, everything has changed. We grew from 1200 women served per year to over 4000, from 15 staff to nearly 70, from 300 volunteers to 5000, and from an operating budget of $1 million to one of $6 million. But at its core, DWC has always been and continues to be a safe haven for the most vulnerable women on Skid Row, a place that welcomes everyone with dignity and respect, and a leader in the effort to end homelessness among women.
How do you think YOU have changed over the 10 years you have worked at DWC?
On a professional level, I have learned so much about nonprofit management – capital campaigns, fundraising events, affordable housing development, finance, human resources, program development, and advocacy. But I have also grown personally in the past decade. Everyone I have met at the Center has touched my life in some way. I have been pushed to accomplish things I never dreamed possible. I have found hope in the most difficult of circumstances. And I have seen the true power of a community of individuals committed to a common cause.
DWC has made me believe that we can – and will – end homelessness.
Above: Molly over the years at DWC, from spending time out into the community (left) to welcoming Stevie Wonder to the Center (right).
What would you like someone to take away from reading about your experience in social services so far?
It has been an amazing journey. The work is hard but rewarding. There are opportunities for growth, to push yourself to do more and to do better at every turn. And the women of DWC have made it all worth it.
Any parting thoughts?
Thank you to the DWC community for welcoming me with open arms and giving me a home for the past ten years. I will always hold the Center and the people I’ve met here close to my heart, and while I am leaving the staff, I will remain a part of the DWC community committed to ending homelessness among women in Los Angeles.
Join us in saying thank you and farewell to Molly Moen in the comments below!