Meet Ruth Coffin-Villaroel, Our Newest Board Member

woman-smilingHow has your professional and personal background prepared you to become part of the St. Francis House board?

On the professional side, I have a varied background with nearly 30 years of experience in financial management and operations. I do feel like those are areas where boards and organizations are often in need of help and insight whether it’s project-oriented, strategy, or just how to pull it all together. Having been involved with boards on the professional side of things in the past really lends itself to understanding the needs of organizations that rely on the governance and input of their board.

On the personal side, from early in my career I’ve served on a variety of boards ranging from my alma mater to community organizations focused on empowering young women. It’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to dedicate time to board service, so I’m really excited about getting back into it here at St. Francis House.

How did you first learn about St. Francis House?

At the very beginning of 2020, I made a career shift. My roles have traditionally been in corporate finance, private wealth management, and financial accounting, but I’ve always been very involved in the community and committed to volunteerism. I decided I wanted to merge the two more and made a switch from the corporate side of finance and operations to philanthropy. I decided to follow my heart and my passion and accepted a position at the Liberty Mutual Foundation.

In this new role, I attended St. Francis House’s virtual ‘All the Way Home’ Gala where Liberty Mutual’s CEO David Long was being honored – this was really my first exposure to the organization. I was able to learn a lot more about Liberty Mutual’s relationship with St. Francis House which certainly goes back many years in terms of support and partnership. As part of my work, I began reading more about the organization but as much as I read about the breadth and depth of what St. Francis House does, that’s nothing compared to what I saw when I came in for a visit. I was blown away by all of what gets done in that building. Just in talking with the guests and staff, you can really see that this place has a life-changing impact on people and that things are really happening here – which was exciting! I knew that I wanted to re-engage from a board perspective and the more I talked about the organization with colleagues, the clearer it became that this was where I wanted to dedicate my time.

What kind of experience, wisdom, and strategic thinking do you hope to bring to the St. Francis House board?

I’m a huge believer in the idea of diversification. When I think about St. Francis House the whole idea of diversifying funding sources is critical and that part of my perspective and experience is something that I hope to bring to the board. It’s important to come up with a strategy that incorporates as many funding sources as possible to be sure the organization is not overly reliant on a single source that could impact its ability to deliver on its mission.

Wherever the need is greatest or there is the biggest gap – whether it’s in the form of a perspective, expertise, or experience – is where I want to make a difference. I have lived experience to the extent that my own life and the life of loved ones have been touched and impacted by the effects of homelessness. I think bringing that is also a benefit to delivering on the mission of St. Francis House as well as the tasks of the board. I’ve loved hearing about the vision of where St. Francis House is going, so wherever I can help build support around realizing that vision is a priority. I’m truly just excited to be involved in whatever capacity is needed most.

Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

During my visit, I had the opportunity to see guests describe firsthand how they’ve moved forward, and to see how expressive and open they are I think says a lot about the kind of environment St. Francis House has created. What struck me too was that as many times as I’ve been in Downtown Boston, you just never know all of what’s happening and going on behind those walls. After my visit, I realized how much work and difference get done in that building. I really look forward to spending more time and learning more about the staff, the organization, our guests, and where I can help move things forward.