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A special welcome to Shannon Clancy, our new CEO

Hear the letter written to Shannon from Steve Zabilski in his final days as SVdP Phoenix’s CEO and get to know our leading lady in a special Q-&-A.

A leadership transition nine years in the making came to realization on Oct. 1 as Shannon Clancy officially stepped into the role of Chief Executive Officer for St. Vincent de Paul Phoenix.

Shannon has more than 30 years of experience working for local and national faith-based nonprofit organizations. She graduated from Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix, the University of Notre Dame and has a Masters in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park.

Maybe most remarkable are the almost 20 years she’s dedicated to SVdP, many of which she spent leading alongside former CEO Steve Zabilski. From the moment Steve met Shannon, he recognized the exceptional person she is and envisioned a great future for her and for SVdP with Shannon’s gifts, talents and grace at work within in the mission.

Together, the SVdP family and community have witnessed that inkling of great potential grow into the nonprofit’s first woman CEO, who we are honored to have at the helm and celebrate in a special video above and Q-&-A below.

What inspired you to pursue nonprofit work? 
Shannon Clancy: When I was a sophomore in college, a service opportunity challenged students to be immersed in the needs of their hometowns. I spent three days and two nights in downtown Phoenix where I learned about organizations like St. Vincent de Paul that were serving people experiencing homelessness in our city. Though I had grown up in Phoenix and been downtown many times, I had no idea of the immense poverty there. So many people. Hungry. Homeless. A level of suffering that I had never personally witnessed, let alone experienced. Once I saw it, I just couldn’t look away. I realized that nothing was as important to me as helping alleviate the suffering of people living in poverty and providing opportunities for people to realize their God-given potential.

As the first woman CEO of SVdP Phoenix, what does that milestone mean to you?
I am honored to be the first woman to hold the position. Since being selected, I have seen with greater clarity how much it also means to other women of all ages in our community in even more of a significant way than I anticipated. I am humbled by it and recognize the great responsibility that comes from being the “first.”

I hope that one day we won’t need qualifiers in the workplace to distinguish people who come into a position. Until then, I believe it’s the responsibility of those who hold those positions to recognize the role we play and educate, mentor and support the next generation of leaders. Role models have tremendous power to demonstrate a new way of being in the world—to show what’s possible for ourselves and those like us.

What is it like following Steve Zabilski? What have you learned from him?
Following Steve into the CEO position is humbling and fills me with deep gratitude. I have been blessed to have him as a role model and mentor over many years and have learned from him how to lead a large, impactful organization like St. Vincent de Paul while carrying the weight of that responsibility with strength and grace. He has taught me a great deal about grace under pressure, prioritizing time, prioritizing people, and running a nonprofit like a business but never without your heart at the center of it.

At this moment, what are some of the greatest challenges you feel our community faces?
So much weighs on my heart these days. Increased homelessness. Lack of affordable housing and increasing rents, cost of living and evictions. Lack of access to high quality, comprehensive healthcare for uninsured patients. Increased mental health needs, particularly among young people searching for purpose, meaning and belonging. A lack of hope and optimism for the future.

In all these arenas, SVdP must continue to scale efforts and partner across the community to seek solutions and take action. What gives me hope is to witness the deep compassion, generosity and love that this community has. And how eager people are to come together to care for one another. In this way, no challenge is too great for us.

What is your vision for SVdP? 
I hope to carry forward our deep commitment to reaching out to and lifting up the most vulnerable. I want to continue to enhance and expand services for people in need, particularly in the areas of homelessness, eviction prevention and healthcare for the uninsured.

It’s also important that we continue to say ‘Yes’ to the community when it calls on us to serve in large ways and invite the greater public to be part of that response. That means we must grow our efforts to engage the community at scale and offer people purpose, meaning and belonging within our mission.

I also want SVdP to continue to be a place of common ground, where those who need help and those who can offer it, come together. I envision enhancing and expanding our campus to offer the space, environment and programming that allows people to connect and belong—a campus where people find great joy, healing and fulfillment, especially in our service to others.

Are there any things about SVdP you wish to change?
I don’t know that I feel meant to change things as much as to continue to invest in them and to help SVdP continue to evolve as the needs of the community evolve. It feels that I am being passed a torch that is burning brightly, and I am tasked to protect it, to tend it, to keep it burning even more brightly, to honor the service of all the guests, Vincentians, volunteers, employees and donors who have come before me.