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May 10, 2018

Veteran Nonprofit Leader Nita Smith Named Executive Director of Friends of the Children–Tampa Bay

Smith brings more than 30 years of youth advocacy and nonprofit management experience to the new chapter.

TAMPA BAY, Fla. Friends of the Children, a national nonprofit that pairs children who face multiple systemic obstacles with a salaried, professional mentor called a Friend for 12+ years, announced today that veteran nonprofit leader Nita Smith has been selected as the executive director of the new Friends of the Children–Tampa Bay chapter, and will be heading up efforts to transition from an affiliate model which launched in Tampa Bay four years ago.

“We are so pleased that Nita will be joining our national network of leaders to run our new Friends of the Children–Tampa Bay chapter,” said Terri Sorensen, national president of Friends of the Children. “She is a seasoned and passionate nonprofit leader who has dedicated her life to empowering vulnerable children. Her vast experience will be essential to the success in the chapter.”

Prior to joining Friends of the Children, Nita spent more than 30 years with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America network, serving most recently as the president and chief executive officer of the Boys and Girls Club of the Suncoast in St. Petersburg, Fla. During her tenure, she also served as executive director in Seattle, Wash.; Morehead City, N.C.; Santa Maria, Calif.; and Carlsbad, N.M.

Smith is also an accomplished fundraiser, with an impressive track record that includes raising more than $50 million to support operations and capital campaigns. In the first few months, Smith will be tasked with transitioning from an affiliate to a chapter model as of July 1, 2018, building an influential board of directors, raising awareness about Friends of the Children and raising funds needed to serve current and future program participants.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to the work I love doing most,” said Smith, who spent the past few years battling breast cancer and is now in remission. “This was the right opportunity at the right time. I want to spend the next phase of my career being closer to the kids and being part of a movement that is rapidly expanding and transforming the lives of children facing the greatest obstacles. Friends of the Children is doing just that.”

The chapter will launch with seven full-time Friends and will continue serving children in Pinellas, Hillsboro and Pasco counties with the goal of serving more children in the 2018 to 2019 school year.

Friends of the Children, founded 25 years ago in Portland, Ore., is in 15 locations across the country and in the U.K. and will be expanding to 25 cities by 2025. Evaluations on youth who complete the program show that:

  • 83% graduate from high school, although 60% had parents who did not graduate high school
  • 93% avoid the juvenile justice system, although 50% had parents who were incarcerated
  • 98% avoid early parenting, although 85% were born to a teen parent

“I look forward to reconnecting with the youth advocacy community to build deeper relationships with child welfare advocates, the K-12 education community, public systems, philanthropists and corporate leaders to collectively amplify our work and broaden our base of support,” says Smith.

Friends of the Children was recently profiled in The Chronicle of Social Change for the work they are doing in Los Angeles and around the country. They are being featured in a national public television documentary series called The Visionaries, this spring.

For more information about Friends of the Children–Tampa Bay, email Nita Smith.

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