Moving Our Community Forward

By Doug Cowan

President & CEO

I have an exciting staffing announcement to share with you, and then I want to tell you the story behind that staffing announcement. Beginning June 1, Merideth (Parrish) Rose will be serving as the Chief People Officer at Community Services League. CSL is comprised of about 70 paid staff, 250 volunteers that work a regular, recurring shift, 2,000+ donors that support the organization with financial gifts, and close to 20,000 of our neighbors that benefit from our services annually. CSL is all about people. People are who we are called to serve, and people make the good works of the organization happen. We have to care for our people – all of them.

Some of the areas she will oversee include: internal workforce development and training; the employee/volunteer experience and their feedback and evaluation; employee/volunteer goal setting and personal development; care and support of our team, diversity, equity, and inclusion; and workforce accommodations. In drawing on her experience, she will provide important leadership for program growth, outcomes, and evaluation, and will serve as a catalyst for where we go next.

Since the pandemic began, Merideth (as a volunteer) has led our local FEMA-supported (Federal Emergency Management Agency) framework for community response to disasters, called Emergency Support Function (ESF). ESF-6 is the infrastructure to provide mass care to a community, and she has led a community leadership team that supports mass feeding, volunteers, mental health, receiving donated items, and a broad array of other human services. I’ve been honored to serve under her leadership in ESF-6 as the co-chair of the Mass Feeding effort. Merideth’s background in working for FEMA has helped our community stay resilient in the face of the pandemic. Since 2015, Merideth has served as the Director of Neighborhood and Family Services for the Independence School District, and has overseen 32 school-based social service workers. She is finishing a two-year term as the Board Chair of CAPA (Child Abuse Prevention Association), which is one of her numerous community volunteer activities.

My relationship with Merideth precedes our work with the pandemic. As we both have worked in caring for people, our paths often crossed. I humbly and nervously came to her a few years ago, and while stumbling over my words, I asked her to serve on the CSL Board of Directors (she has ascended to the role of Board Vice Chair at CSL, but will resign to join the staff team). I stumbled over my words because it was difficult for me to tell her that we not only needed her leadership, but that we also needed her to strengthen CSL through her diversity. As a Black woman, she has endured many of the struggles that our neighbors have overcome. The empathy and perspective she brings to CSL is so critical, not only to a brighter future for us, but it is critical for our very survival as an organization.

Merideth is a powerful leader in our Independence and Eastern Jackson County community. She will continue her role as a changemaker in our community. I’ve asked that she keep serving on the many boards and commissions that she’s on now, so that she’s well-poised to guide and position CSL for where we can be most effective in the future. She will also continue leading and supporting our ESF-6 community mass care efforts. I have also asked Merideth to help serve as a fresh face and voice of the organization. For my 11+ years at CSL, I’ve served as a chief storyteller and communicator. I look forward to continuing that work, but other people can, should, and will be a voice for this organization, and for the marginalized in our community.

Coming through the pandemic, and turning 105 years old in 2021, a bright future is ahead for CSL. I’m confident that Merideth will help write an even brighter future for our organization, and help take our work and impact to new levels. Please join me in welcoming her.

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