We are delighted to present the second in a series of profiles on this year’s Hometown Heroes who will be honored at our annual awards breakfast on Friday, September 29th at the Computer History Museum.
In honor of CSA’s 60th anniversary, we are thrilled to honor Maureen Wadiak, our Associate Director, who celebrated 20 years of service to the agency in March. Maureen will be embarking upon a new adventure when she retires and relocates to Kitsap, Washington next month.
A self-described New Jersey girl, Maureen spent her early years travelling the world with her father, a non-commissioned military officer, mother and brother, spending time in Germany, Virginia, Kansas and Georgia before settling down in the “diner capital of the world.” She earned her undergraduate degree in social work from Seton Hall University and went on to Columbia University for a graduate degree in social work.
In 1984, Maureen and her husband Dave moved to California where she found a position at Palo Alto Information Services. From there, she moved over to United Way of Santa Clara County, where among other responsibilities as Director of Information and Services, she shepherded six agencies – including CSA – through the annual allocations review process. “I fell in love with CSA’s mission,” says Maureen, who went on to accept a position as the agency’s Director of Programs in 1997 and Associate Director two years later when CSA Executive Director Tom Myers came on board.
What has kept you at CSA for 20 years? It’s been a combination of Tom Myer’s leadership, the quality of staff and the vital work that we do. Tom’s trust in the team has given all of us tremendous leeway to be creative. In turn, that’s attracted high-caliber employees who are truly committed to our clients. The opportunity to work with creative people here and at our sister agencies has been a real gift. And while homelessness has been a pressing issue throughout the years, the housing crisis has exploded the past few years, making the work that we do all the more important.
How have community needs changed over the years? Income disparity is at an all-time high. The working poor have always had to struggle to live here, but now it’s worse. We’re seeing more and more families where both parents are working two to three jobs just to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Between our Food and Nutrition Center and mobile food pantry, we had over 7,000 people turn to CSA for their nutrition over the last 12 months … and that number is growing.
CSA has been very creative in developing programs to meet changing needs such as the intensive case management program for seniors who need assistance in transitioning from the hospital to their homes. The mobile food pantry that serves students at Foothill College, residents at Buena Vista Mobile Home Park and families whose children are in the free and reduced food program at three elementary schools is another great example of the creative problem-solving that the CSA team has employed.
What influenced you to pursue a career in social work? I have always had a bit of an activist streak, starting with persuading my family not to buy non-union grapes or lettuce when I was young. But it was when a family member was ill and I witnessed first-hand the impact that a social worker can have on assessing someone’s health and formulating a treatment plan that I knew this was my passion.
What are some career highlights? The succession of career challenges moving from providing direct client service to program planning as a member of the management team has been especially rewarding, as has teaching social work at San Jose State University and at the University of North Alabama. Another career standout was realizing early on how much the community supports CSA’s mission and their generosity to the cause.
What do you do for fun and relaxation? I enjoy reading, walking, listening to music and going to museums. Right now I’m reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. My favorite music leans toward 60s folk music, classical and traditional Irish music.
Who were some of your role models? Professionally speaking, it was Jane Addams who was an extremely progressive woman and a trailblazer for her time. On a personal level, my mother was my role model. She instilled in me the values of social justice, accepting all people and facing adversity with grace. She was exceptionally compassionate, and everyone was always welcome in our home.
Please click here to purchase tickets to this year’s Hometown Heroes.