Annie Malone Children and Family Service Center, the historic North St. Louis non-profit that provides residential placement and a variety of other services for women and children in need, has a new chief executive officer.
Sara Lahman is a licensed clinical social worker with a master’s in social work and stepped into her new role as the CEO at Annie Malone on January 16. She has spent the past few years managing residential programs for the non-profit Great Circle.
“I just was at a place in my career where I didn't know if I didn't feel like I was making as much of a difference as I really wanted to,” Lahman said. “I’m a social worker, and this was right up my alley of what I wanted to do in my career.”
Lahman said she learned important lessons about administration and non-profit work from her time at Great Circle and her transition to Annie Malone has been exciting.
“This is just the heart and soul of what I believe personally, my value set,” Lahman said. “It's everything I've wanted to do in my career.”
Annie Malone was opened in 1888 as the St. Louis Colored Orphan’s Home, later renamed the Annie Malone Children’s Home in honor of a key sponsor. While its original goal was to provide a home for parentless children, its mission has changed and expanded many times over the years. Annie Malone’s services now include crisis intervention for children and families; a transitional living program for foster, homeless and runaway youth; and parenting education. They also operate Emerson Academy Therapeutic School, a K-12 school that provides both education and therapy for struggling students.
Lahman replaced Joseph Anderson, who served as the interim CEO after Leslie Gill left the organization to become the executive director of Rung Ltd. Anderson returned to his position as chief financial officer at Annie Malone.
Lahman said there are many Annie Malone services that the public could benefit from, but are not always aware of.
“We have an amazing parenting program I wasn't even aware of until I came on board and – through the interview process just in researching it, meeting with those staff – they do so much to work with the parents here where they're struggling,” Lahman said.
“Their kids are either in the foster care system and they're trying to reunite, they're trying to beat an addiction, or whatever that is, and we just advocate for them and help them understand the processes that's underutilized.”
Annie Malone is approaching its 130th anniversary as an organization, and staff members said they are excited to have Lahman on board at this notable time.
“Sara is an extremely talented human services professional with deep experience in the delivery of clinical services, strategic planning and development, human resources and quality assurance,” said Annie Malone Board President Cozy Marks III. “She clearly understands our community, the families we serve, and the rich history of Annie Malone.”
Annie Malone is currently working with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to open an eight-bed crisis center that will provide services for young victims of human trafficking. Lahman said she hopes to expand the organization’s therapeutic services and work with more mental health providers.
“The biggest thing that I want to bring to this area and what I'm most about is just bringing hope to the community and to let people know that we're here and we want to be their referral of choice,” Lahman said.
“We want to be a partner in the community. I see us doing daycares in the future and just see us really partnering more to be that provider that helps these kids in this community. And I'm very excited about that.”
The organization is planning a number of events for its anniversary, including an Annie Malone Kids on the Run against Child Abuse and Neglect 5k Run/Walk on April 29 and a May Day Parade celebrating 130 Years of Service on May 20.