Circle of Hope leader announces retirement

Pam Ripling, executive director of Circle of Hope, will retire from her position after eight years on the board. SchlickArt

After eight years with Circle of Hope, Pam Ripling is retiring as the executive director of the local nonprofit.

Circle of Hope is a nonprofit that provides emotional and financial support for cancer patients with low insurance benefits or who do not have insurance. Ripling was approached by members of the organization because of her work with other nonprofits like the American Cancer Society, and they wanted her help aiding local cancer patients.

“There is a lot of cancer in my family, so it was important for me to provide my services to cancer organizations,” Ripling said. ”I decided I would give it a try and immediately fell in love with their passion and mission.”

Ripling joined Circle of Hope in 2011 as a secretary due to her previous executive board experience and quickly became a central figure in the organization, eventually becoming president and then executive director in 2015. She said that while the work they were doing was good, she immediately recognized the potential for growth.

“When I joined we were very small, and the economy was bad, so the very first thing people were throwing out the window was charitable giving,” she said. “Being a tiny nonprofit, we had taken a hit and we weren’t as diversified in our revenue sources as we could have been. I provided the leadership that allowed this organization to grow and I’m very satisfied with the work that I’ve done.”

One of the highlights of Ripling’s career was the opening of the Hope’s Haven Cancer Wellness Center in 2018, of which she is named a co-founder.

“I didn’t feel like we were doing enough to help people to transition after their cancer,” she said. “We offer free services like yoga, art therapy and dance specifically tailored to people who have cancer, and survivors.”

Though she could have renewed her term as executive director for another two years, Ripling said she felt it was time to step down because she had reached retirement age and it was also time to give someone else a shot at leading.

“I want to spend more time with my little grandchildren and my husband is a little tired of staring at my empty seat in our home office,” she said with a laugh. “I think with any nonprofit a periodic change of leadership is always a good thing. You give the best of your best for several years but everyone has different strengths and resources, and it’s certainly never a bad thing when someone new comes along with a different energy or background.”

Taylor Kellstrom, the current board president, served as vice president under Ripling and credits her for teaching him how to lead the organization.

“What didn’t Pam do for this organization?” Kellstrom said. “Pam has really been a spearhead for pushing Circle of Hope into the future. We’ve had the most clients we’ve ever had because of her. On one hand it’s sad that we’re helping so many people because that means more people with cancer, but on the other it’s a good thing that we’re able to help them.”

While he is sad to see her go, Kellstrom fully believes Ripling has earned her retirement. Circle of Hope hopes to have Ripling’s replacement hired by May or June. According to Kellstrom, the ideal candidate is someone with experience in the human and health services with communication or executive experience.

“The most important thing is that the candidate shares a passion for our mission of supporting people affected by cancer,” he said.

Ripling said her favorite part of the job was helping people who are “fighting for their very lives” while the hardest part was having to deal with the sadness that surrounds cancer.

“It’s immediately gratifying to see the relief on these people’s faces, because let’s face it, how easy is it to get well when you’re thinking about bills?” she said. “People come into our offices every day looking for help and also sometimes just to talk to someone. We occasionally lose people who become like family after helping them for so long.”

Though she will not be officially employed by the organization, she will not completely disappear from involvement with Circle of Hope.

“I will be getting my life back, but that doesn’t mean that I will completely disappear,” Ripling said. “I’ll always be on the outskirts of Circle of Hope to support it and other nonprofits in the area. They’ve become such a big part of my life, and I still have a great passion for Santa Clarita and its people.”Circle of Hope is accepting resumes. For complete job description, please visit Email resumes to [email protected] or fax to 661-254-5255.

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