Happy 2023! I hope that the new year finds you well.
I am writing to you today to let you know that I will be stepping down as executive director of Urban Autism Solutions on January 27 to rejoin the State of Illinois.
This has been a very, very tough decision for me to make since I have been with UAS for more than six and a half years and am so deeply invested in its success and growth. I cannot tell you how proud I am of the team we have, the work we are doing, the people we are serving, and the passion I personally have for our mission and programming.
The UAS Board of Directors has chosen a new executive director, Ms. Maura McCarthy who joined UAS on January 16. Maura has a tremendous passion for the nonprofit sector. She served with the Peace Corps, Operation Smile – a global non-profit providing free treatment for children with cleft palate and has served on the boards of organizations involved in animal welfare and children’s health and wellness. Most recently, Maura worked as a senior executive at Kraft and later Mondelez. Maura serves on the board of directors of Waukegan 2 College and, until recently, Urban Autism Solutions. Her commitment to service and her strong leadership and management skills developed over more than 20 years in corporate America make her ideally suited for this role.
I am incredibly excited for UAS as we embark on another decade of transformative programming and growth, under Maura’s leadership.
My many thanks to the UAS Board of Directors for their support, sound advice, mentorship, friendship, and most of all for allowing me to have one of the most incredible experiences I have ever been afforded. I am incredibly grateful to have been part of such an amazing organization and to have worked with and learned from some of the most amazing people I have ever had the opportunity to know. The UAS and A+ teams are small but mighty and work tirelessly to provide the best services, programs, and opportunities for our residents and clients throughout Chicago.
A huge thank you to all of you – our parents, friends, supporters, and donors who have watched UAS grow and transform over the years. You have supported us with your volunteer hours, friendship, phone calls, emails, dropping off meals (especially during the pandemic), donations and grants, joined us over a meal at 1212, stopped by our farmstand or attended one of our parties.
Finally, thank you to Julie Tracy, co-founder and the visionary behind Urban Autism Solutions who all those years ago took a chance on trusting me with her dream and vision. In the spring of 2016, she literally opened the doors to me, welcoming me to 1212 I’ve made myself at home there ever since. For several years, our office was the dining table and our conference room was the porch. From that vantage point, I was given a unique perspective on operations and understanding the community-based model Julie created using beautiful colors and spaces, high-caliber staff, and a person-centered approach that spread to our social programs and the larger programs we continue to evolve at our Growing Solutions Farm and now the UAS West Side Transition Academy and Life Lab.
Among many other things, Julie spent countless hours teaching me about autism and the world of disability services. We dreamed big, we collaborated, and we sought to create programs that were accessible, affordable, and scalable. Unknowingly we constantly challenged ourselves and each other as well as those around us to create environments and programs that were not just good – but sought-after models. We had days we forgot to celebrate victories, moments we wanted to forget forever, and seconds that led to hours that we could not stop laughing. I could not have had a better teacher, mentor, and friend.
Urban Autism Solutions provides our clients the opportunities to live a life like any other, but there’s still work to be done. I cannot wait to see where Maura takes us in the next chapter.
All the best,
Heather M. Tarczan