Two top executives at Social Advocates for Youth who helped push through the nonprofit group’s landmark Dream Center for at-risk youth in Santa Rosa have announced they will be leaving the agency for other jobs, marking a transition of leadership at a time of significant growth and success for the organization.
Matt Martin, SAY’s charismatic chief executive, has been tapped by Redwood Credit Union to fill a new vice president position, heading the credit union’s community and government relations division.
Cat Cvengros, SAY’s director of development, will take a vice president post at Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, one of the country’s largest food banks.
Martin was sought out by Redwood Credit Union’s CEO and president Brett Martinez, who described Martin as a friend.
“I’ve been talking with Matt about his goals for a long time,” Martinez said, adding that Martin has long expressed interest in the broad financial role Redwood Credit Union plays in local households. “The big news is that he’s going to stay local and continue to have a huge impact not only on Sonoma County but in the region.”
Cvengros and Martin, viewed by many as a high-powered team at the top of SAY leadership, said the timing of their departures was “coincidence.”
Both cited the development of the Dream Center as their biggest accomplishment, one that involved a $9.5 million fundraising goal and public relations campaign, with buy-in from local leaders, residents and philanthropists. The facility, the former Warrack Hospital off Summerfield Road in Bennett Valley, provides temporary and permanent housing for more than 60 homeless and former foster children while teaching a larger segment valuable job skills. It opened last year.
“As I stand in this building — the SAY Finley Dream Center — it’s awe-inspiring to know that I get to live and work in a community that cares so much for those who need it most,” Martin said. “I’m so proud to have played even the smallest part in this work to make the Dream Center a reality and know that lives will be changed here for the better for generations to come.”
SAY, established in 1971, helps at-risk youth, including foster youth, with housing, counseling and career training. It has an annual budget of just over $7 million, 142 paid employees and more than 370 volunteers.
The organization’s current chief operations officer, Katrina Thurman, will become CEO after Martin leaves April 4. He starts with the Redwood Credit Union on April 17.
Asked why he was leaving SAY, Martin said, “At Social Advocates for Youth we have a core value that reads ‘we are our best selves,’ That includes continuous learning and growing, not only for our youth, but for us as staff members and professionals. After eight years of a tremendous journey at SAY, I felt it was time for me to continue learning and seeking new ways to help. It’s all about being my best self — for the community.”
Petaluma businessman Scott Pritchard, SAY’s incoming board president, said Martin has played a crucial role in SAY’s growth and success and that Thurman is more than capable of continuing the organization’s vision.