Honoree Headshot

Charity Russell

CEO
Pinal Gila Community Child Services Inc.

Location: Casa Grande, AZ
Founded: 1974
Industry: Non-Profit Organization

Operating the federal Head Start program in Pinal and Gila counties is a challenge, but doing it in a pandemic and helping children five and younger from at-risk backgrounds is a mammoth task.

Yet Charity Russell, CEO of Pinal Gila Community Services Inc., found a way. The organization shifted to teaching children via iPads and at-home learning packets. The nonprofit also provided meals, diapers and masks to families.

“The past two years have been a challenging time and the hardest our agency has faced,” Russell’s team said. “We’ve had to constantly challenge the status quo and strive for even greater levels of excellence to serve our families.”

Pinal Gila Community Child Services Inc. operates the federal Head Start programs throughout Pinal and Gila counties. From early math and reading skills to confidence and resilience, Pinal Gila Community Child Services helps children build the abilities they need to be successful in school and life.

Head Start’s value is clear from the data and results. Research shows the program delivers a clear advantage for students as they prepare for kindergarten and beyond. Head Start students are more likely to graduate from high school, attend college and receive a postsecondary degree or certification than children who don’t participate in Head Start. Children in the program gain confidence, resilience and persistence that will carry them through life.

“I try to lead by example, following the model of being a servant leader,” Russell said. “I will continue to be of service to others. I will assess with my team to collaborate with partners, mentors and consultants to enhance the professional development of myself and those I work with. I intend to build the core capacity of those around me and strengthen collaborative relationships among staff, families, parents, caregivers and community providers.”

Russell earned her Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Business Administration from Grand Canyon University and a master’s in counseling — life coaching from Liberty University.

She started as a transportation manager with Pinal Gila Community Services, then shifted to a community development planner role, working on community projects, funding and grants. In 2007, Russell worked as the Head Start state collaboration director for the governor’s office. She worked as executive director of the United Way of Pinal County, building her leadership skills before returning to Pinal Gila Community Child Services in 2010 as operations director. In 2017, Russell moved into the CEO role.

“For the past 22 years, I’ve grown my business acumen with the goal of serving our neediest populations with care, efficiency and effectiveness,” Russell said.

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