2016-12-08 / Top News

Karen Conley, always giving back


Karen Conley is the founder, president and CEO of Charity for Change, a nonprofit organization currently serving 10,000 afterschool, summer school and in-school K-5 students with its animated community service, math and character education Giver Program (see www.charityforchange.org).

In existence for nine years now, Charity for Change is best known for its Giver Program — which has reached more than 10,000 children weekly in the 2014-15 school year.

Providing a weekly curriculum, the Giver Program engages elementary school children in standards based on math, supporting STEM and aligning with what the students are learning in the school day. An interactive program, it provides teachers and parents with support, is fun, engaging and helps children learn 19 character traits that will help them succeed in school and life: respect, responsibility, cooperation, self-control, etc.

Much of this is learned through support of local charities — helping raise funds for charities the students/classrooms select (vetted in advance by Charity for Change) and volunteering their time while learning more about the nonprofits.

Her previous experience includes eight years as manager of Second Chance Foundation

LLC, managing grants and afterschool tutoring programs.

Karen’s prior community service includes co-founding Naples Equestrian Challenge; Board of Directors of Senior Friendship Centers; Grant Committees of Community Foundation of Collier County and Champions for Learning. Karen is a 2002 graduate of the Greater Naples Leadership Masters Program. She is a recipient of the Jefferson Award for Public Service; Florida Weekly Power Women Award; and Women of Achievement Award from the Association of University Women. ¦

Talking points with Karen Conley

Mentor: Bruce Conley (no relation). His wisdom in seeing the hidden potential in everyone inspires me. His critical thinking ability to look for the other perspective has helped me to learn to pause and wait for my second thought.

Where did you grow up? Norwalk, a small town in northern Ohio.

When and why did you first come to Naples/ Collier County, and what was your first impression? I arrived in Naples in 1972. I grew up knowing I wanted to live in sunny Florida to escape the grey of Ohio. With my parents’ blessing, I packed my car and drove south not knowing a single person in Florida. I drove down the east coast looking for a place to call home. Then I came across Alligator Alley. Naples was an oasis.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A horse trainer. I begged my parents for a horse without success. When I showed them I could earn enough money to buy and take care of one, they agreed. I was in the sixth grade.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this? Something identical.

Guilty pleasures: Staying up past 9 p.m. My husband and I are up at 4 a.m.

Next (or most recent) vacation destination: Somewhere with mountains, trees and snow.

One thing on your bucket list: Our Charity for Change mascot, Giver, as a household name.

Skill or talent you wish you had: Marketing and playing the piano.

Advice for someone just starting in your line of work: Learn everything you can about marketing and building and maintaining relationships.

Trait you most admire in your best friend. My husband, unconditional love and support.

Favorite app: Kindle.

Something that’s been on your mind: I’m saddened by the violence and disrespect that has evolved into our entertainment.

What your mother was always right about: Always take the high road.

Must-see place to take first-time visitors: Lunch at the Ritz on the beach.

Something that makes you laugh: Babies and young animals.

Last book you read: “Traction,” by Gino Wickman

All-time favorite movie: “Sixth Sense,” because the ending surprised me.

Something you’ll never understand: How people can abuse children, animals, women and the elderly.

Something you wish could go back to the way it once was: Character and values of the greatest generation.

Pet peeve: Being late.

Something people would be surprised to find out about you – or, hidden talent: I used to paint and write greeting cards.

What are you most proud of? Accomplishments of the 10,000 children in the Charity for Change Giver Program.

First job (please also say where/what town): K&H Drug Store when I was in High School in Norwalk, Ohio.

Something the Paradise Coast really needs: Resources to help all of our children achieve their full potential.

Favorite thing about the Paradise Coast: Sunny, clean, safe and beautiful!

What do you miss about the Paradise Coast when you go away? Ditto…

— Bob Harden is the producer and host of “The Bob Harden Show,” airing from 7- 8 a. m. weekdays at www.bobharden.com, where hundreds of past shows are archived for listeners’ convenience.

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