We all know there is good work being done at HCJFS every single day. Now, we have a new employee whose job it is to help those outside our walls better understand all that we do and how we are willing to listen and partner in efforts that improve our service to families and children.

Chandra Mathews-Smith started Monday as our new assistant director – community strategies and engagement. She wasn’t looking for a new job, but immediately was interested in this position because of her respect for Director Moira Weir, whom she has known since they were both caseworkers. They both also sit on the board of the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency. Mathews-Smith is the board’s chair.

She’s excited about this job because she has always felt a connection to HCJFS. She’s a former foster parent for Hamilton County and an adoptive parent. She led an effort through Beech Acres Parenting Center – where she worked for more than 20 years and eventually became a vice president — to recruit emergency foster homes. She “spent a lot of time in churches, in the community and at rec centers talking about the need for foster homes.”

But her work goes beyond issues pertaining to Children’s Services. She also worked at the Council on Aging of Southwest Ohio as a consultant, helping to keep seniors out of the hospital, and as vice president of operations for Medicaid services. She’s worked on poverty issues, too.

She grew up in Michigan, but has called Cincinnati home for 29 years. She raised three daughters and a fourth attends Turpin High School. She is a proud grandma of three. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, a sisterhood of predominantly black, college-educated women who work on service projects in education, health and economic development.

Mathews-Smith was chosen one of 10 Women of the Year last year by The Enquirer and The Greater Cincinnati Foundation. She was selected for her work with the Community Action Agency and C&C Premier Cleaning, a company she co-founded where the goal is to employ people who have felony records or other barriers that make it difficult for them to find work.

She expects to return to a lot of churches and other locations as she heads back out into the community on behalf of HCJFS. She wants to help the community understand more about the agency and how we want to work together to make positive change in all our service areas.

“I’m honored to take on this huge role,” she said. “This is something that’s after my own heart.”