Shaping Services, Empowering Communities
Joe Hollendoner BSW ’03, MSW ’04 thought he’d live and work in Chicago, where his family and friends are, for life. He also valued the direct contact he had with clients and communities as a social worker. But, as with all best laid plans, Hollendoner now resides in California, serves as the chief executive officer at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and will transition this summer into his recently announced role as the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s chief executive officer.
“I began working in nonprofits, never imagining I’d be a chief executive officer,” says Hollendoner. “I found I had an aptitude for nonprofit management though, and could bring my fierce commitment to clients and communities into leadership roles. I’ve continued to use this as my North Star in every organization I’ve led.”
Hollendoner didn’t leave Chicago without making his mark, however. He held leadership roles with the Chicago Department of Public Health and Howard Brown Health. It was here he collaborated with partners in 2004 to open the Broadway Youth Center, a comprehensive health and social services center for LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness. He’s especially proud of the model of care they created. The center still follows that model and has served tens of thousands of young people to date.
In fact, it was a staff member at a youth LGBTQ drop-in center in the suburbs of Chicago who introduced Hollendoner to social work as a career. As a young man coming out, he says he was intrigued by how the various social support systems interconnect with one another and by the idea of being the individual who cared for those whom the systems had failed. In seeking his social work degree, he had UIC’s Jane Addams College of Social Work (JACSW) on his short for its urban setting. Its engagement in systems-level social work drew him in.
It’s incredibly important that programming is designed, implemented and managed by members of the community they intend to serve.
“UIC’s Organization & Community Practice track made it an attractive school to earn my master’s in social work,” said Hollendoner. “It cemented for me how I think about systematic change and structural intervention in promoting the well-being of communities, families and individuals. It is a unique and special approach that I didn’t see elsewhere.”
Now Hollendoner is winding down as CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and transitioning into leading the Los Angeles LGBT Center. His vision: ensure that every member of the LGBTQ+ community thrives. To do this, he will continue his lifelong work to eliminate health disparities, including increased rates of violence, experienced by LGBTQ+ individuals. For Hollendoner, this also includes a continued commitment to anti-racism.
“The long overdue racial reckoning that began this summer has brought increased visibility to the work we as a society have to do,” he shared. “We have to dismantle the systemic racism in our care delivery systems and center those who have often been most excluded. For me, this especially means ensuring that trans women of color—specifically Black trans women—have access to programs that honor their strength and resiliency.”
Part of Hollendoner’s success is ensuring those doing the work on the ground in communities are reflective of the communities in which they’re serving. Universities like UIC, that offer an affordable, accessible education, are key to recruiting and training those individuals. “It’s incredibly important that programming is designed, implemented and managed by members of the community they intend to serve,” said Hollendoner. “As a young person I was given the opportunity to shape the services I received, and it was empowering beyond measure.”