The great philosopher, Plato, once said, “The beginning is the most important part of the work.” As I reflect on my first six months as CEO of Mainstay Life Services, I couldn’t agree with him more.

From the start of this new journey, it’s been very important to me to get to know those that truly are the heart and soul of Mainstay. Meeting employees, families and the people we support, and hearing about their lives, seeing pictures of their loved-ones and seeing how they decorate their homes is one of my favorite parts of this job. Everyone is so unique and has a different story to tell, and that’s what I love most about Mainstay.

While I’d love to spend all day, every day visiting with the people we support, there is other important work to do. Mainstay already has such a great reputation and so many fantastic programs, but there is always room to grow and evolve.

Expanding our advocacy efforts and list of services is something I am diligently working to do, and I’m not afraid to try new approaches. There are always ways to improve and innovate. You just have to take time to listen and learn from others. I like to constantly evaluate what is working well and what opportunities we have to improve. In my first six months, I’ve focused on the best ways to keep Mainstay growing and moving in a positive direction.

I’m proud to see the changes we’ve implemented so far taking shape and coming to life. The new self-advocate committee that assists the board of directors and executive team has already played a helpful role in decision-making about Mainstay’s supports and future direction. Our list of partnerships with self-advocate groups, family members and community providers is expanding and that is something I plan to keep developing. Also, I am thrilled to say we’ve added Supported Employment to our continuum of care and those services will take off in the near future.

I want to keep this momentum moving forward and I know I can’t do this alone. In order to be successful, you need to receive information from all levels of an organization. That’s why I plan to continue to actively engage all members of our Mainstay community – stakeholders, people we support, family members and employees – to learn what can be done differently and what can be done better. I’m so proud of the progress we’ve already made and of the future we are creating together.

I feel so blessed to be doing what I love, and it’s hard to believe I’ve already been a part of the Mainstay family for six months. I’m convinced Mainstay has to be Pittsburgh’s best-kept secret! From our employees, to the people we support and their families, I could not ask for a better community. I cannot wait to see what the next chapter brings.

-Kim Sonafelt, Chief Executive Officer