Monday Meeting: Matt Constantine, CEO of Lake Worth’s Adopt-A-Family. Article by Susan Salisbury – Palm Beach Post Staff Writer. You can find the source article by clicking the link above or here.
Adopt-A-Family of the Palm Beaches was founded in 1983 by three Palm Beach County women who realized there was a need to help families who were temporarily down on their luck. The first family of four they helped was living under a bridge after moving from Texas. The ladies moved them to a motel, and then two weeks later, helped them find an apartment.
Today, 34 years later, with Matt Constantine at the helm as CEO, that same mission continues with a budget of $5.5 million and a staff of 50 people. Adopt-A-Family operates a variety of programs and support services aimed at preventing homelessness and providing housing for families who are homeless.
Name: Matt Constantine
Hometown: Bel Air, Maryland
Education: Master’s in Social Work
Family: Wife, son, live in Lake Worth
About your company: Adopt-A-Family is a nonprofit located in Lake Worth that serves families with children who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless. Adopt-A-Family’s mission is to strengthen families in their efforts to achieve stability and self-sufficiency. Pursuant to our mission, our agency operates nine core programs that address the continuum of needs that many vulnerable families in Palm Beach County face. Last year, we served 2,167 families and ended or prevented an episode of homelessness for 635 of those families. We have 62 employees and 15 dedicated and committed board members.
First paying job and what you learned from it: Worked at a McDonald’s when I was 15. I learned that I had a lot to learn. No matter how big or small you think your role is, there is always a need for it and something to learn from it.
First break in the business: My first social work job was with Baltimore City’s Department of Social Services. I worked as an advocate for children who were placed in foster care. I started with Adopt-A-Family in 2002 as a case manager for our homeless prevention program. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in several positions at the agency. It has given me a broad understanding of the work we do.
How your business has changed: There has been a great deal of change within the nonprofit sector and specifically federal and local policies surrounding the homeless services area since I started in 2002. I think there has been an increased focus on the return on investment (outcomes) on behalf of funders. We have also adapted and adjusted to the world of social media and web communication. Although things have changed and our programs have evolved, our mission and core philosophy of helping families in need has remained consistent.
Best business book you ever read: I recently read “Evicted” by Matthew Desmond. This is more of subject area book than a “business” book. The book does an excellent job of illustrating the problem that so many vulnerable families deal with surrounding housing stability. Unfortunately, stable housing is not easily obtainable for many in our country.
Best piece of business advice you ever received: Trust your instinct. There are many times that there is no clear answer right in front of you. You have to be able to trust your instincts to help you.
What you tell young people about your business: That being able to help families is an incredible honor. People come to us at a time of need and it’s often not easy for the families we serve to reach out for help. They are vulnerable and anxious to get their lives back on track. For so many families it is just one incident, like a medical issue, that creates a cycle that leads them to homelessness. To see them get back on their feet, to be able to see a mother graduate from college, a family buy their own home, or a student get accepted to college are feelings that are indescribable.
Many successful people learn from failure. Do you have a failure you can share and what you learned from it? I have no shortage of failures. However, I think each one has strengthened and helped shape me. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to make mistakes, experience failures, and grow from them. Unfortunately, so many of the families we serve cannot afford this luxury. They lack a safety net and one misstep can easily evolve into a significant life barrier. I can’t imagine where I would be if it were not for second and third chances.
What do you see ahead for Palm Beach County? I see a lot of strategic collaboration among entities such as the school district, PBC, and nonprofits. The issue of family homelessness is much larger than one agency and will continue to require many partners to adequately address. We are fortunate to be in a community filled with compassionate foundations, corporations, elected officials, and individuals who are committed to making PBC a great place for all residents.
Power lunch spot: Eating with coworkers in the office.
Where we’d find you when you’re not at the office: Probably outside with my son—Bryant Park, South Olive Park, or John Prince Park. We also spend a great deal of time in downtown Lake Worth.
Favorite smartphone app: Twitter
What is the most important trait you look for when hiring? I believe that we have a special work culture at Adopt-A-Family, which values autonomy, hard work, and humility. When hiring we really try to find those candidates who would most likely excel in our work culture. We have an incredibly talented and committed team that exudes passion for the work we do.
Linked with permission from The Palm Beach Post.