Reorganization Update - March 2020
We are thrilled to announce that after a lengthy and thorough selection process, we have hired all staff for Region 5. The hiring process included representatives from the local program teams as well as athletes from our region.
Meet our new staff….
Coryna Barberis – Regional Administrative Manager
Coryna comes to SOPA with extensive experience in volunteer and database management, having worked with a volunteer database of approximately 5,000. She also worked with a number of corporations in the area to recruit special event and leadership volunteers. Before moving to the Lehigh Valley, Coryna worked in development offices at Rutgers and the University of Massachusetts.
Start date: Monday, February 24
Phone: Main number 610-850-0449 x 2
Internal SOPA extension x 352
Greg Bott – Regional Development Director
For the past 10 years Greg has served as the Director of Development for the Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living. There he successfully secured federal, state, local and foundation funding for programs to support persons with disabilities through grants, fundraising events, corporate sponsorships and individual gifts. In fact, Greg knows a number of our athletes. In addition to development work, Greg led the marketing and social media campaigns for the agency.
Start date: Wednesday, March 11
Phone: Main number 610-850-0449 x 3
Internal SOPA extension x 353
Jason Merola – Regional Sports Director
Prior to joining SOPA, Jason’s career has been focused in event and tournament management and execution. While at ArtsQuest, a Bethlehem-based nonprofit, Jason planned and executed 15 large-scale events annually, working with teams of volunteers to support the events. Previous to that, he worked as the Beach Sports Manager organizing a number of summer sporting events including a soccer tournament with 1,000 registered teams.
Start date: March 23
Phone: Main number 610-850-0449 x 4
Internal SOPA extension x 354
My phone (Julie Benjamin):
Main number 610-850-0449 x 1
Internal SOPA extension x 351
2158 Avenue C, Suite 201
Bethlehem, PA 18017
The office is conveniently located just off of Route 22 and as close as we could get to the geographic center of the region.
And we have an official name…
As part of our inclusive process for the development and naming of “Region 5,” an email voting survey was sent to athletes and Class A volunteers in the region soliciting votes to name the region. From the two name options with an opportunity to provide their own suggestion, the winner is: Greater Lehigh Valley & Pocono Region
Please join me in welcoming the new Greater Lehigh Valley & Pocono Region staff. We will identify a future date for a staff visit to the new office. In the meantime, everyone is welcome.
Executive Director, Region 5
It is with great pleasure that I announce the appointment of Julie Benjamin as the Executive Director for our pilot region (Region 5)! Julie comes to us from Artsquest in Bethlehem where she served as the VP of Community Partnerships and Executive Director for Levitt Pavilion, and most recently from the Allentown School District as their Director of Communications. You can read more about Julie in our press release.
Julie’s first day was Monday, December 16th and she has really hit the ground running! Julie had lunch with a small group of volunteer leaders from around Region 5, and more such opportunities will be planned in the near future so she can meet and get to know as many athletes, volunteers, family members, and other stakeholders as possible.
Julie is working with other team members to finalize work already begun by our Transition Team and other priorities for launching our first region including:
- Posting and hiring the remaining regional staff positions (Admin Manager, Sports Director, and Development Director). Volunteers from the region will be including in the interview process.
- Selecting and opening the regional office (multiple locations are currently under consideration).
- Deploying and using the results from an Athlete Satisfaction Survey to give us baseline information and help set priorities (this will be going out statewide, but we will use regional results to help establish focus areas).
- Developing a regional webpage
- Supporting the upcoming Lehigh Valley Plunge.
- Creating a “playbook” other regions can use in the future.
While it took longer than we had hoped to find an executive director (we initiated the hiring process in August and reviewed nearly 200 candidates), it was important to “get it right” and find the right leader for our first region. I would like to thank the other members of our Hiring Team – Christine Rodrigues (Monroe), Ernie Roundtree (Monroe), Carol Erzen (Allegheny), Lynn Lopez (Lancaster), Susan Wyland, and Clare Walsh Miller. They all invested an incredible amount of time and energy into this process, and we all are excited to work with Julie.
I also wanted to share some additional good news. As we prepare to launch our first region and look at how we will best serve our athletes in the future, I am expanding the responsibilities of several of our existing staff. I am excited to announce the following promotions in our program, marketing & development, and administrative teams respectively in recognition of their outstanding performance and the scope of their responsibilities:
- Jordan Schubert, Manager Athlete Leadership & Young Athletes
- Chelsea Drob, Director, Program Initiatives
- Michelle Boone, VP, Sports
- Clare Walsh Miller, Chief Program Officer
- Nick Cammarota, Manager, Digital Marketing & Communications
- Nicole Jones, VP, Marketing & Communications
- Kraig Makohus, VP, Development
- Susan Wyland, Chief Financial Officer
Please join me in welcoming Julie and congratulating all of these team members!
As we look ahead to our next 50 years, I am excited about all of the incredible possibilities we have to do “more and better” for our athletes. I can’t wait to get started!
Thank you for all you do for our athletes…the best is yet to come!
Matthew B. Aaron
President & CEO
PS – I wanted to briefly address a question about funding that came up as these changes and promotions were being considered. All of the new regional positions and the promotions announced above are included in the state budget for 2020. That budget was reviewed and approved by our Board Finance Committee earlier this month (the full Board will review and approve the budget at their next meeting). No local Program funds were utilized. Sustainability has been a key focus for me and for our Board of Directors as we have developed and implemented our reorg plans to ensure the long-term financial health and strength of our organization.
I am pleased to announce that we will be piloting our Reorganization Plan in Region 5 which includes our current Programs in Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton, Bethlehem, Berks, Monroe and Schuylkill. A small group of Reorg Team members recently met individually with all seven local Programs in Region 5 to share info about the reorg and listen to input and feedback. Based on the outcome of these meetings, we are now moving into the Transition and Implementation phases.
Region 5 was selected as the pilot because:
- All local Programs in Region 5 are currently healthy, and we are fortunate to have a lot of experienced volunteer leaders and coaches in this Region. We will definitely count on them to help lead the development of our regionalization model for the rest of the state.
- There are strong community and school-based programs in the region that will facilitate sharing of best practices across the region.
- There is capacity for growth in athletes, volunteers, and donors which includes Unified Champion School programming.
- Region 5 is representative of PA as a whole with a mix of rural and urban areas.
As we bring all Region 5 programs together, our goal is to work as a seamless volunteer/staff team to do more and better for our athletes. Regionalization should help us operate more efficiently and effectively, but for the most part the process should be transparent to our athletes.
Change is never easy, but our reorganization prepares us to better meet the needs of our athletes for the next 50 years. I want to thank and acknowledge our Region 5 Program Leaders for stepping up and being a part of our exciting future.
If you would like more information about the overall reorganization plan which was approved by the SOPA Board of Directors at their February meeting, please visit the reorg page on the SOPA website at:
If you have additional questions after reviewing these materials, you may email Clare Walsh Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 610-630-9450 ext. 235.
President & CEO
Special Olympics Pennsylvania
Want to learn more about the proposed future of Special Olympics Pennsylvania?
Over the past six weeks we've been meeting in various committees regarding the reorganization, and recently presented our work to you: athletes, families, volunteers and supporters!
We just completed a state-wide “road show” and held Town Hall-style meetings in January in each of the proposed regions in Pennsylvania. These meetings were open to any key stakeholder of Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
Couldn't make it to an in-person meeting?
Take a look at a video recording of the presentation.
Download PowerPoint Slides of the presentation.
Do you have questions or concerns after attending a Town Hall Meeting or viewing the presentation online? Please feel free to share that feedback with us via our Google Doc form.
Thank you for your continued support!
Reorganization Update and Materials:
- Reorganization Project Update – November 2018
- Proposed Regional Structure
- Task Force Structure and Guidelines
- The Way Forward
Thank you to those who were able to attend our 2018 Leadership Conference. For those of you who were unable to attend our Reorganization presentation, please find conference materials and a video below:
- To see the full reorganization presentation from the conference, view the following: https://youtu.be/4rk_P_xMjVo
- View a copy of the slide deck that was presented.
- If you would like to give feedback, please use the following link to complete our Google doc: https://goo.gl/forms/o5pBEXD4170aoK103
Please share these materials with other members of your management teams, athletes, coaches and other volunteers. As we move forward, we will be sending you a monthly update.
Two years ago, through various town hall meetings, surveys, focus groups and conversations, it was made clear that in many instances the Special Olympics PA volunteer experience had become more difficult with every expanding requirement -- taking away from the positive experience that we want for every volunteer involved. In addition, the experience for our athletes wasn’t equitable across the state and, on the whole, we were seeing a decrease in athletes served year over year due to several factors. As a result, we put together a “Solutions Team” to review, analyze, and provide recommendations to address these challenges. One of their long-term recommendations was “an organization redesign needs to be carefully studied and various possibilities considered.”
We conducted some preliminary work early last year and shared that with the SOPA Board of Directors at their meeting in August of 2017. Based on that work, there was unanimous agreement that simply making changes and adjustments within our existing structure would not be sufficient to address our challenges and enable us to maximize new opportunities.
The Board tasked our President with putting together a team to review options and provide recommendations. A “Reorganization Working Group” was then chartered and asked to report back with recommendations at the August 2018 Board meeting. They put together a “Way Forward” document that summarizes their work to date and offers a glimpse of where they see things headed.
A general session was conducted during the Leadership Conference in August where the Reorg Working Group introduced their proposed reorganization model, and multiple opportunities were be provided throughout the weekend for volunteers to ask questions and provide feedback.
“What We Heard From You” – Leadership Conference 2018
Thank you to all of you who gave of your valuable time to participate in the Leadership Conference this year. We wanted to share below a summary of key takeaways from the weekend and what we are doing to address the issue or opportunity noted.
Those of you who were at Leadership are aware that several sub-committees have been formed to address specific topics during the next phase of reorganization work. This is an exciting and important time in the history of Special Olympics PA. The changes we implement will shape our future for years, and likely decades, to come. I invite and encourage you to be part of helping us determine what those changes will look like by volunteering to be part of this process.