Notable Nonprofit Leader of the Month: Dr. Ashley Cross
Updated: Jun 24, 2022
Meet Dr. Ashley Cross!
Ashley is super sharp, a significant community impactor, and an all-around delightful person to know. Something you may not know about her is that she has a first degree blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do. So, watch out Rochester because Ashley is on the rise.
Please tell us about you and your work.
“I’m originally from Denver, then moved to Tulsa, OK, where I started a home for girls aging out of the foster care system or who were homeless. It’s called Manna House. I lived in the home, managing it for four years, and in that time fostered 25 girls – as many as five at a time. This was what I call a ‘Community-Supported Foster Home.’ I wore all the hats – I was the founder, the foster parent, the fundraiser, the volunteer coordinator, everything. I had a huge community around me to alleviate the pressure so I could be there for the girls.
“Then in 2016 we moved to Rochester, NY. We discovered that Monroe County was missing something called the Care Portal so for 18 months we worked to introduce that concept. The Care Portal is software that connects children in need with providers who can meet those needs. It works like this: Child Protective Services (CPS) visits a home and discovers a child-centered need (for instance, a child who has no bed and could therefore be removed from his or her mother). CPS inputs the child’s need into the Care Portal which connects to 700 community responders who make sure that the child gets the bed that he or she needs, keeping the family together. CPS uses the Care Portal daily now and more than 800 children have had their needs met since 2019.
“Yet there are still so many needs to be met. So, we started The Hub 585. My husband is the Senior Pastor of a church downtown and during the height of the pandemic, he was able to buy a three-story building. The church uses the two lower levels, and the third level we’ve renamed the Hope Center, which houses the operations of The Hub 585. The Hope Center provides hope to children and families. For instance, the nonprofit called Saving AJ has their crisis nursery in the Hope Center, the Society for the Protection and Care of Children (SPCC) has a family room, Generation Outreach uses the space for an after-school program. We form partnerships to meet needs.”
What is the biggest fundraising challenge your nonprofit has faced, and how did you deal with it?
“When we first launched The Hub 585, getting trust and buy-in from local foundations was not easy. They want to know that you have capacity and outcomes, and when you’re a grassroots organization, you have neither capacity nor outcomes! And evaluation planning is expensive. Thankfully, we were awarded a racial equity grant from the United Way, and honestly, that opened a lot of doors for us, and other funders started getting on board and providing funds as well.”
What are you most proud of professionally? How about personally?
“Starting the Manna House in Tulsa was a big achievement. I’m very proud I could get the community behind the concept.
“I’m so proud of my family. I have three daughters – Jordan, Harper, and Madison – and I love my husband.”
What is something most people don’t know about you?
“One thing that most people don't know about me is that I have a 1st degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.”
What advice do you have for other nonprofit leaders who may be facing fundraising challenges?
“Focus on your board. They will be your most loyal and undervalued assets if you don’t leverage them. Invest in your board, and let your board do the work to help grow your network.”