Kristen Gary Powers, MBA

Lola Magazine Lola Shreveport, Megann McDaniel

Megann McDaniel, with McDaniel Financial, recently sat down with Kristen Powers to discuss her role at The Arc Caddo-Bossier and what the organization means to her. 

Q1.  You have held a variety of jobs in the nonprofit sector, most recently with The Arc Caddo-Bossier. Have you intentionally selected jobs in organizations that are charitable and mission-driven, or was that by accident?

Every role I’ve held in the past helped prepare me for my current position. I have always been drawn to the nonprofit sector and knew I wanted to be in a leadership role. Having a mission-centered career is not something I have necessarily sought intentionally, but it certainly brings me a great deal of satisfaction to know the work I do is helping build unlimited opportunities for people with disabilities in our community. That is the expressed mission of The Arc Caddo-Bossier. My role as Executive Director allows me to partner with private businesses to expand on this mission and allow local businesses to be a part of something really cool… inclusion of people with disabilities in all of life’s roles. 

Q2. I first met you during a Rotary group study exchange to Thailand.  That experience changed my life and outlook on the world. I’m curious to know if the experience had the same impact on you.

Yes!  Our trip to Thailand totally changed my life and I will always be grateful to Rotary International for making it possible through their Group Study Exchange (GSE) program. We spent five extraordinary weeks there immersed in a culture so different from our own. The trip also helped me to realize some common threads that run through humanity no matter the country or customs. Having experienced different ways of life helps me to have a greater world view as I form my opinions. 

When I returned from that trip, I became involved in Rotary, which stands for “service above self” and gained a great friend in you (Megann Hayes McDaniel)! You then introduced me to my husband. So, when I say “our trip changed my life” I mean it… I would not be married to my husband or have my children if I had not gone on that trip to Thailand in 2007. 

The hospitality of the Thai people made an impression on me. No matter their social status – wealthy or living in poverty – the people we met welcomed us and offered us what they had available. I hope to emulate that in both my professional and personal life.  

Q3.  What do you see as the challenges facing businesses or charities in Shreveport?  

Staffing is our greatest challenge at The Arc Caddo-Bossier. We are working to raise funds and have successfully advocated for better rates for our services so that we can pay more competitive wages to our Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who are truly the heroes of our community, those who are doing some of the toughest jobs because of their love and commitment to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  

Q4. What are the blessings and opportunities that we have for businesses and charities in Shreveport?

Our community is so generous. We are blessed to have many local businesses and foundations willing to partner with nonprofits for the greater good. Thankfully, the energy industry provides some economic stability to our region, allowing local nonprofits to continue to benefit through tough economic times experienced nationally. 

Q5.  You’ve told me before that any time you think you’re having a bad day just come visit me at The Arc and your outlook will change. You explain that people with disabilities often live with so much joy and love and offer such kindness. Can you explain that to someone who has never visited The Arc’s homes or programs? Would you encourage others to experience life alongside someone with a disability?

While I welcome the opportunity to take someone on a tour of the Conly Day Program at Frost Industries and love seeing the faces of visitors to The Goldman School and Child Development Center or GREAT Equine Assisted Therapies, you do not have to visit one of our buildings to experience The Arc Caddo-Bossier. At the core of what we do is community integration. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are living in community integrated settings, apartments, individual houses, and in our community homes. They are working alongside us as our coworkers- they are our neighbors, our friends and fellow church members. Many people with disabilities have a way of seeing the world that is not clouded with negativity and fear. This allows them to live in the moment, something we could all learn from. They are people, just like you and me, and they have their own unique passions, interests and goals. I encourage anyone who wants to learn more about what The Arc Caddo-Bossier is doing to follow us on Facebook and Instagram or visit www.thearccaddobossier.org. 

Q6.   You have a young daughter, Mary Olive, who I have to say is absolutely precious. Has your outlook on careers changed now that you have a young daughter?  If so, in what way?  Is there anything you try to model or teach Mary Olive?

There do seem to be more women in nonprofit leadership positions, but I’m not really sure I have the answer as to why. It does seem to be trending that more women are entering executive roles with for-profit businesses as well, but perhaps did not accelerate as quickly as it seems to have in the nonprofit sector. 

As a wife, mom and Executive Director, work-life balance is difficult. Thankfully, I had a very wise person give me some encouragement early on, when I was a new mother. I was traveling for work during my first child’s school Easter egg hunt and I was really struggling with missing it. One of the people on the trip with me who was a more experienced parent told me that my son would probably not remember me missing his first egg hunt, but he would remember his mom working to make a difference. I want my children to know that they can make a difference, not just talk the talk. And, I want them to know how to take action to make an impact. I do not miss too many life moments, but when I do it is for a mission driven purpose. 

Q7. You have accomplished much in your relatively short career.  Do you have advice for young women starting out or mothers who are trying to set a positive example for their children?

You don’t have to be the CEO to make a difference. You can be a leader no matter your title. We all lead by making proactive smart decisions that add value to the mission. Every day you have a choice… to get up “and do the next right thing” like the Frozen II song sung by Kristen Bell as Anna. 

Be a team player. I have a wonderful team of leaders who are the directors of our programs and services at The Arc Caddo-Bossier. We call this group L-10 (Leadership Ten) which represents the level of excellence we are working for – and there also just happens to be 10 leaders on this team. They are difference makers. But, even more importantly, they are the messengers for the difference makers at all levels of the organization. 

Take action. When you see things in the world that you want to change for the better, do it. The ripple effect will be beyond what you can imagine. I think this is why I love working in an organization like The Arc Caddo-Bossier. Everything I do – WE do, as a team – is in an effort to improve the lives of our co-workers and the people with disabilities that we serve. 

More information on The Arc Caddo-Bossier: www.thearccaddobossier.org

Kristen Powers is the Executive Director for The Arc Caddo-Bossier, an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit organization serving hundreds of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities through its variety of residential and employment programs, equine assisted services (GREAT) and a child development center, Goldman School.

A Shreveport native, Kristen attended LSU Baton Rouge where she earned her undergraduate degree in mass communications prior to receiving her MBA from the University of New Orleans School of Business. Her background in corporate communications and fund development includes marketing, public relations, advocacy, social media and business development. She worked in the New Orleans market before Hurricane Katrina, which led her to move back to Shreveport where she has made a career primarily serving in healthcare and nonprofit organizations. In her current role, Kristen leads The Arc Caddo-Bossier and raises funds to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities in the community. 

Kristen has served as a member of Rotary International since 2007. She is a founder and past-President of the northwest chapter of the Public Relations Association of Louisiana and has been a member of the Junior League of Shreveport-Bossier since 2009. She and her family are active members of First Baptist Church Shreveport.

Kristen married Ashley Powers in November 2013 and the two have a 6-year-old son, Hollis, and a 3 year-old daughter, Mary Olive.