Calcutta House, which provides housing and other integral services to people with HIV/AIDS, has been without a permanent executive director for about two years — but it will now be helmed by a longtime Calcutta employee who has seen the agency through its many stages of development, and from a variety of vantage points.
Calcutta announced this week that the board has elected Kim McGrory as its permanent executive director. The agency has been under the leadership of interim executive director Joseph Drennan, board chair, after former director Matt Teter stepped down in March 2011.
Calcutta provides housing for up to 31 residents at two separate facilities and a number of other health-care and social services.
McGrory, 47, most recently served as deputy executive director of the agency. She started with the organization as administrative assistant in 1996 and moved her way up through a number of positions in her 17-year tenure.
The Philadelphia native holds a certificate in nonprofit management from La Salle University.
In the interview for her original position, she told founding executive director Sister Joanne Whitaker that she espoused a belief, which still holds true.
“The last question in the interview was, ‘What do you know about people with AIDS?’ And I said, ‘I know they’re human beings, they’re people,’” she said. “First and foremost, that’s all you need to know. The people that Calcutta House works with should be treated just like everyone else.”
Two years after coming to the organization, McGrory was appointed director of operations and, in 2004, moved up to become deputy executive director. She also served as interim executive director for a nine-month period in 2008 when the agency was searching for a permanent director.
Since 2004, she has served as the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Licensed Administrator for Calcutta House, a position that requires she undergo annual training to ensure she is proficient in all of the agency’s operations.
“I’ve done everything from soup to nuts, as they say,” McGrory said. “I’ve worked in the finance department, with the finance department, with the development department. I’m a person who is hands-on — I like to know about all facets of the operation of any organization, even if it’s not my role. If there’s a need for a backup or a team player to stand in, I’ve been that person. So I think it will be very helpful that I’ve held various roles and know all the ins and outs of those roles now.”
The agency currently has an annual budget of $1.2 million and employs 30 people.
McGrory said that the past two years have been financially challenging without a permanent director at the helm.
“Because we didn’t have someone seated, it was hard for the board and others to know which direction the organization was taking,” she said. “So it’s been a challenge in terms of getting funding and in terms of people’s perceptions of where we were. But we’ve had other AIDS service organizations getting out there, cheerleading and saying Calcutta House is still in operation and still working to provide housing and highly supportive services and stable living environments to the community.”
Now that McGrory is in the post, she said her top priority will be ensuring the agency is in a stable financial position.
“The short-term goal is just to keep the doors open,” she said. “We want to make sure that we’re meeting all of the guidelines for the funding sources we have and keeping up with the rules and regulatory compliances for our funders.”
Looking farther down the road, McGrory said the organization has already engaged a consultant to help Calcutta House reassess its mission.
“We’ve been reviewing the mission of Calcutta House and what it’s been for more than 25 years. Is it the same? In a lot of regards it is, but do we need to expound on that mission? Yes, we do. So we’re going to be moving forward to take us into the next 25 years.”