Q&A: Home of the Sparrow’s Michelle Venema
The Chester County philanthropist and new CEO of the Exton nonprofit shares what’s in store for the future.
Photo by Tessa Marie Images
For two decades, East Goshen’s Michelle Venema has been giving back Chester County, while spending 15 years in the banking industry. In 2008, she was awarded the March of Dimes’ Ellen Ann Roberts Excellence in Business Award. Her latest move melds her worlds, as she takes over as CEO of Exton’s Home of the Sparrow, which supports women and children on the brink of homelessness.
MLT: Why did you pursue the CEO position at Home of the Sparrow?
MV: It’s been a long-term goal of mine to spend the latter part of my career really working in the nonprofit world. To have community members say, “We see you in this role,” was really the impetus I needed.
MLT: What has made you want to give back on so many levels?
MV: My dad started Chester County Opticians, and he was always part of the exchange clubs. It was just a natural fit. It’s important to take care of your community. The payback is this unimaginable, indescribable gratitude.
MLT: Why did you want to work with at-risk women and children?
MV: I’m passionate about women and children, and taking care of them. I can’t think of a more difficult thing facing a mom than trying to raise children when you don’t know where you’re going to sleep or how you’re going to be safe. That must be an extraordinarily difficult thing.
MLT: How are you bringing your extensive financial background to Home of the Sparrow?
MV: I’ve always been on the commercial-lending or business-banking side. When you’re a lender and you work with that side of the business, you understand small businesses and what it takes to run one. Nonprofits are thought of as a group of volunteers, and when you bring a business acumen to those volunteers, you can elevate an organization.