Springfield nonprofit Care to Learn recently reached a new milestone with the addition of its 40th chapter in the state.
CEO Krystal Simon yesterday discussed the new chapter, as well as future growth plans, during Springfield Business Journal's 12 People You Need series. She was interviewed live by SBJ Editorial Vice President Eric Olson at The Backlot, Alamo Drafthouse Springfield's restaurant and bar.
The new chapter, which launched Oct. 17 in the south-central city of Summersville, represents the third back-to-back addition that came about due to referrals, Simon said. The nonprofit, which services health, hunger and hygiene needs for kids, is close to covering the entire state, she added.
"The need is huge," Simon said. "Kids are hurting and families are hurting. I’m so thankful that we can be that lifeline for them.”
Care to Learn has a systemwide operating budget of roughly $1.7 million, Simon said.
During the interview, she stated a goal of adding at least 10 more chapters this school year. A larger footprint in Kansas City and St. Louis, as well as in rural towns, is targeted, and a new state may be in the cards.
"There is a plan for us to be in Arkansas," Simon said, noting the nonprofit's first entry into a new state could come as soon as three years from now.
Care to Learn, founded in 2008 by Springfield businessperson Doug Pitt, fills health, hunger and hygiene needs through partnerships set up with school districts and communities. In Springfield alone, Simon said the nonprofit spends $20,000 per month on clothing closets at local schools.
"We always need more cash," she said. "I never apologize for asking donors. I know the impact."
Looking even further to the future, Simon said she's found her preferred place of employment. Formerly chief operating officer at the Barnabas Foundation Inc., she joined Care to Learn as CEO in mid-2021. Since Simon’s appointment as CEO, Care to Learn has grown to six paid staff from two.
“I’m finishing out my career here," Simon said.
Mercy Springfield Communities relocated a clinic; San Clemente, California-based law firm Gilson Daub Inc. expanded to the Springfield market; and a second video gaming center for Contender eSports Springfield LLC opened in the Queen City.