Sandra Gaddy is passionate about making sure no woman gets left behind.
She knows what it’s like to be a working mom—and some of the obstacles women face in their career path every day. Gaddy spent her early career in banking, having previously put college on hold to get married and raise three children with her husband. She credits her banking career with teaching her how to tap into and build on relationships. It was then she envisioned a different career path and decided to finish her degree.
Since she was a working mom, a traditional college classroom wasn’t going to work for her. Gaddy returned to school through Cornerstone’s Professional & Graduate Studies (PGS) program. Taking night classes while working and caring for her children helped her understand the difficulty of balancing school, work and family and how vital it is for women to achieve their full potential.
When the opportunity came, many years later, to serve as president and CEO of Women’s Resource Center (WRC) in Grand Rapids, Mich., Gaddy jumped at the opportunity.
WRC meets women where they’re at, whether they are reentering society after incarceration or are seeking a promotion at work. The organization empowers and elevates women to achieve their greatest potential and provide financial stability for their families.
“The work at WRC makes my heart sing,” Gaddy said. “It’s important to me that all women have every opportunity to succeed.”
Gaddy is able to use both her passion and her lived experience to pour into women as they face similar challenges that she’d faced years before.
“Our goal is to transform a system that sustains poverty to one that provides women with poverty-ending occupations,” Gaddy said. For women seeking jobs, WRC offers career exploration, certifications and technical training. Their participants end up in a variety of different jobs, from traditional office settings to trades like welding. Women have access to rent laptops if they’re required to work from home. They can receive a retail certificate to help them become better employed. And they can learn technical skills they need to get ahead in their career.
As a result of WRC’s tireless work and Gaddy’s leadership, 70% of women in the organization’s programs remained employed and have not been reincarcerated.
The economic climate of 2020 proved a challenge for women across the board. WRC interacted with as many participants and their families throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in crisis, including women reentering the community early from their New Beginnings program at Kent County Corrections. In September 2020, over 800,000 women left the workforce, according to a report from the National Women’s Law Center. Gaddy noted that many women left the workforce during this time, either to help their children learn online or because of the lack of available childcare options.
Gaddy recalled a recent participant that she and her team worked with, a working mother of a special needs daughter. The organization changed her hours suddenly to third shift at the factory where she worked, which caused her to have to seek new employment so that she could be there for her daughter.
“Moving forward, it will be incumbent upon companies to create an environment that offers flexibility,” Gaddy said. “We’ve learned that we can work from home successfully and create opportunities for moms to do so.”
Gaddy is passionate about helping to provide women avenues to overcome barriers to gainful employment and personal success. That passion is guided by her faith and how Christ calls His followers to help those who are in need.
Gaddy would be the first to tell you that actions speak louder than words. During her time at Cornerstone, while sitting in night classes at PGS, she was called into the office of a Cornerstone administrator. He told her there had been an accident. Her husband and young son were in a car accident while traveling in a busy intersection and were taken to a hospital near Valparaiso, Ind.
The administrator took Gaddy’s hand and prayed for her before she left for the hospital.
“I don’t remember his name,” Gaddy said. “But I remember his act.” Her husband and son recovered well.
Even if some participants at WRC do not know Gaddy by name, they can certainly see the work that she leads through the impact that the organization has on women in West Michigan. “Our team and volunteers are second to none,” Gaddy said. “They walk alongside each woman to help them reach their potential and/or personal goals.”
Gaddy’s advice to women who have a lot on their plate is simply this—“Don’t give up. I know how challenging raising a family, working and going to school or learning a new trade can be.” Although it’s a challenge, it’s possible and we can all do it with the right support system.
“I believe the Lord opened the door for me to come to WRC,” Gaddy said. “When I got the job, I said, ‘God, you have me on this platform, so I’m going to be intentional about everything I do and say and how I listen.’”
That’s how Gaddy lives out her faith—by using a platform to transform lives and make a tangible impact for Christ wherever she goes.
Sandra Gaddy serves as CEO of Women’s Resource Center in Grand Rapids, Mich., having previously served at both Mel Trotter Ministries and Inner City Christian Federation. She received her Bachelor of Science in business management from Cornerstone University’s Professional & Graduate Studies program in 1999 and her executive MBA from Grand Valley State University. She and her husband, Arlen-Dean, have three adult children.