Leaders at Family Shelter Service in Wheaton are confident that, when Executive Director Karen Hurley Kuchar steps down, Judie Caribeaux will fill her shoes with the same vitality.
“We had a leadership consulting firm work with us to find my replacement, and they whittled down the finalists to two people,” Kuchar says. “We are thrilled with the selection as she has a great mix of qualities.”
Caribeaux, of Naperville, will take over leadership of the nonprofit organization Nov. 4.
Caribeaux, 50, is no stranger to Naperville. She worked as acting executive director of the park district from January 2000 through September 2004. Other positions she’s worked include serving as the executive director of the Community Career Center from July 1996 until taking the park district position, and as an adjunct faculty member with North Central College’s speech department.
“I feel that my experience with the Naperville Park District was one of the key things that helped prepare me for this job, in that I originally worked for them in the development department, and understand things about governmental and private fundraising,” Caribeaux said. “The position of working with other donors was a good experience for me.”
Caribeaux said the other experiential piece she will tap into is the education and training she received at Aurora University, where she earned her second master’s degree.
“With a master’s in social work, you learn about the clinical side of social services,” she said. “Working with nonprofit groups, you also understand there is a new structure these days in terms of outcomes and measures.
“From a financial perspective, there is accountability today with nonprofits where you show not only how you have helped but you also have to demonstrate impact and show what has changed.”
Kuchar said her successor “has a definite passion for the mission” and that she and Caribeaux have a shared history.
“I’ve known Judy for at least seven years, and she has a passion for the mission as well as the professional role,” Kuchar said. “I think after 16 years in this position, it was time to step away, and Judy is the right person to take things forward.”
Kuchar said awareness about the Family Shelter Service and the help it provides to victims of domestic abuse remains a key focus for the organization.
“We don’t want to be the best kept secret out there,” she said. “We need to continue to make our existence known to people and understand we’re here if they need us.”
Caribeaux said her own life experiences are likely to play a role in her new position as executive director. She is a “survivor” of domestic abuse herself.
“I don’t mind telling people that I personally experienced abuse in my former marriage and regard myself as a survivor of it,” Caribeaux said. “I understand things from the client’s perspective, which I think will affect how I plan to lead this organization.”
Caribeaux said the goals of the organization are continuing to raise awareness about the issues and to make sure the organization remains fiscally sound.
“One of the main goals has to be prevention and getting the message out about ‘intimate partner violence’ that often occurs during dating early on,” she said. “We have to try and change learned behaviors that kids acquire, and the fact that violence is something we sometimes seem to sanction.
“The other issue is the fundraising piece, as we rely on about 75 percent of the funding from donors.”
Caribeaux has lived in Naperville for 20 years and has two children — a 20-year-old daughter at Illinois Wesleyan College, and a 17-year-old son who attends Metea Valley High School.
Naperville, she said, is “a great place to live, with a sense of community” that is not easy to create.
“There really is a sense of community here, which is difficult given how big it is,” she said.
“It’s not easy to create that sense with something that is so large. To me, it’s quite a feat.”