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Hustle and heart were the main ingredients Dana Lopez used years ago when she co-founded Dogwood Ranch Corp. In the early days of running it, Lopez says that “leadership looked like learning.” She leaned heavily on the advice of more experienced nonprofit leaders and tackled each new challenge as it appeared.
The scope of Dogwood Ranch is big, providing numerous services to foster youth, including equine therapy and safe housing. Now 15 years into leading the organization’s operation, Lopez finds herself on the giving end of this dynamic.
“Leadership takes on a much more personal tone to me,” she says. “We now have a small but oh-so-mighty team of full- and part-time employees. They are true partners in everything we do.”
Lopez enjoys helping young leaders now and knows there is no competition between nonprofits. Her focus is on community development with an “open hands” policy so that everyone is sharing and flourishing together as a group.
“For me, leadership will always have components of service and being committed to giving back,” she says.
Lopez holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, California. She worked in staffing and development directing in California and Missouri before becoming a family advocate for
FosterAdopt Connect Inc. and contracted foster parent training for Therapeutic Support Services PC before founding Dogwood Ranch in 2007. Lopez was formerly a regional board member of the Missouri State Foster Care and Adoptive Parent Advisory Board, currently serves on the board of Ezekiel’s River and is a member of Impact 100 Ozark. Looking to the future of Dogwood Ranch, Lopez is at the helm of creating a larger community of long-term housing for children who experience more severe behavioral challenges.
Lopez is the southwest Missouri representative and chair of the Missouri State Foster Care Advisory Board, a governor-appointed position that she committed to fill in the spring for an additional three years. Lopez brings not only professional experience to the role, but also personal understanding. She has mentored numerous foster and adoptive families in the past 15 years and has been a foster mother to 36 teenage girls.
“Being mom to so many hurting hearts, some for a short period of time and others for the long haul, has truly been the privilege of a lifetime,” she says. “Our girls are resilient. They are strong. They are fierce. And they are loved. I am so thankful and proud to have been able to provide a safe spot for them to land while they healed.”
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