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Honoree Headshot

Swathi Staley

Chief Community Investment Officer & General Counsel
YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago

Location: Cook County
Year Founded: 1858
Industry Group Specific: Nonprofit, Social Services

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The COVID-19 pandemic awakened a sense of urgency in the context of Swathi Staley’s career. She realized that in her role as the chief community investment officer and general counsel, she had the opportunity to play a more significant role in supporting at-risk Chicago residents.

“She saw the power of organizations joining forces to increase the delivery of much needed services and supplies to those who rely on the Y’s help,” said her staff. “Swathi is a titan in her industry because she does not have a fear of the unknown and she has no problem putting her ego and pride to the side because she knows and has experienced that progress can be supercharged when she learns from and leans on other brilliant professionals.”

Over 150 years ago, the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago was created as a place where community members could find growth and support. Today, the YMCA of Metro Chicago has 14 centers, five camps and nearly 100 extension sites, making it one of the largest social enterprises in Chicago. More than 200,000 YMCA members and over half a million Chicagoans rely on the YMCA each year for social guidance and individual empowerment.

In her role, Staley has been instrumental in the growth of the organization. During the COVID-19 pandemic while the YMCA was closed, Staley identified the opportunity to pivot and utilize the vast real estate holdings for another purpose. In partnership with the City of Chicago, Staley closed buildings to serve as emergency shelters and partnered with medical providers, food service partners and private donors to offer help to the homeless.

“Swathi’s advancement through the organization is emblematic of this kind of innovative thinking,” said her colleagues. “Her ability to think strategically and envision comprehensive solutions across the entire organization became evident.”

Her community involvement also makes Staley a stand-out titan. She is part of the inaugural cohort of the Obama Foundation’s Leaders USA program and participated in the cohort of the Leadership Greater Chicago’s Signature Fellows program. She advocates for the importance of community support for families and has appeared on NPR on Reset to discuss projects she initiated with the City of Chicago sheltering asylum-seekers.

“I am proud to show up every day and stand in my own authenticity and lead with my values of integrity and constant learning,” said Staley. “I believe I live this philosophy every day by genuinely listening and making connections to bridge what I know is possible for my organization.”

For her steadfast leadership within the organization and her positive impact on Chicago residents, Staley has been named a titan.

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