The Gowanus nonprofit soup kitchen and women’s shelter CHiPS will have a new executive director in 2021, which comes as the 50-year old institution navigates some of the most challenging times it has ever seen.
“It’s an organization and it’s a mission that I am personally deeply connected to,” said Shivonne McKay, who will take over the organization on Jan. 25. “I’m happy that we align and that I’m able to take the helm.”
McKay had previously founded and led the Jeremiah Program, a Brownsville-based philanthropic effort that provides affordable housing and life skills training for women — which she leaves behind for the northern Brooklyn nonprofit.
“After being the one who essentially built the operation from the ground up, I definitely feel like my transition at this point is really just a natural reflection, not only to where I am professionally, but just to where the operation is,” she said.
McKay will take over CHiPs ten months into the pandemic, during which the soup kitchen on Fourth Avenue and Degraw Street has seen a stark rise in the need for its meal services from Brooklynites who have seen a loss in income.
The soup kitchen has distributed takeaway meals to an average of 150 to 250 people a day, six days a week since March, with no end for the increased demand in sight — leaving CHiPS at a “crossroads,” with an opportunity to expand and focus its mission.
“Internally, organizationally, we’re at a crossroads,” she said. “There’s a great opportunity for CHiPS to really redefine itself.”
The increased need for organizations like CHiPS, coupled with belt-tightening at the state and local levels of government has forced them to reassess their operations, something McKay said she plans on tackling head-on when she takes over.
“How do we increase our operational efficiencies and how do we reach more people?” she said. “We’re going to do deep dives as an organization, figuring out ‘how do we implement the necessary support and processes and procedures that take us there?’”
As CHiPS contends with worsening food insecurity in the city, McKay also called on her fellow Brooklynites to volunteer their spare time and money to help their struggling neighbors.
“Donations, food supplies, volunteers who are willing to come out and help serve, financial contributions so we can continue to be sustained and do the work that we do,” McKay said. “Those are ways that we can be supported.”