Established in 1891, Northwestern Settlement has served the community of West Town. Founded by professors of Northwestern University, Northwestern Settlement primarily served the immigrant community by offering life-changing opportunities to empower the residents. For the first time in its 130 year history, Northwestern Settlement appointed Carole Wood as CEO making her the first Black woman in the position.
On July 6th, Carole Wood officially began as the CEO of Northwestern Settlement. With over two decades of nonprofit experience, Carole feels that her fundraising acumen will be the biggest asset to her new role. Saying, “Our mission is to disrupt generational poverty. So the more money we raise, the more people or families we can serve.”
She then added, “My experience, working with and in communities, will allow me to further the services of Northwestern Settlement. As well as ensuring that we are serving the kids and families that we say we’re serving. Allowing communities to be heard and working from a strength-based place will be an asset to that work.”
Having grown up with parents who worked in the nonprofit sector, Carole developed a passion for it at an early age. She stated that she knew she always wanted to do well by doing good, and nonprofit was the way to do it. But taking on a position as CEO was not something that she imagined for herself. “I’ve always been heavily focused on fundraising. And I’m not sure if I ever saw myself in a leadership role like this. So I am incredibly humbled by this opportunity”, she expressed.
Carole says that it’s an honor to be the first Black woman CEO of Northwestern Settlement. Adding that having diverse voices is needed most in leadership across the country. Especially given the current state of the world.
Since stepping into this position Carole sees herself as a trailblazer, one who will open the door for future Black CEOs and fundraisers. She said, “I didn’t see a lot of people that looked like me in these sort of roles. I didn’t see a lot of Black fundraisers, particularly Black female fundraisers. So it’s my responsibility to talk about it and champion this work so that the ones coming behind me can see that it’s a possibility. I also think it’s important for me to be a mentor and to provide internship opportunities. But at the most fundamental level, it’s important that I am visible and a champion for this organization.”
Carole describes her work as rewarding and is excited about her new role. She says that meeting and working with the families tops her list of what she looks forward to as CEO. Adding that she wants to make sure that they are receiving the services that they need.
Northwestern Settlement currently serves 7,000 people annually. Offering services such as early childhood and after-school programs, food pantries, bilingual mental health services, an elementary school, and a camp based in Wisconsin. Carole said, “Our greatest impact is providing life-sustaining skills through our programs. We have provided wraparound services that allow participants to thrive in their lives.”
Contributing Writer Racquel Coral is a national lifestyle writer and journalist based in Chicago, Illinois. Find her on social media @withloveracquel.