Answering the Call During a Crisis

Alden Fellows are leading great work in our community, especially at this critical time’

At the start of 2020, this year’s Alden Fellows were set to embark on a wide variety of professional development opportunities intended to enhance their nonprofit leadership. And although the COVID-19 global health crisis has resulted in slightly altered plans — it’s also underscored just how crucial nonprofits are at times like this.

“Nonprofits are at the frontlines of this current crisis and serving our community in spite of unprecedented challenges,” says Chelsea VanHook, program officer overseeing the Alden Fellows initiative for the Community Foundation of Louisville. “This critical time shows the importance of strengthening our community’s leaders, which translates into greater investment and outcomes in our community.”

Image taken before COVID-19 restrictions.

Each year, the Community Foundation of Louisville selects five local nonprofit leaders for the Alden Fellows Program. The goal is to provide the fellows with professional growth that elevates their work as leaders, benefits their organizations, and impacts the communities they serve. Fellowships of $7,000 are awarded to individuals who exhibit a unique curiosity, a commitment to the Louisville community, and a sincere interest in exploring their full leadership potential.

One of this year’s Alden Fellows is Dave Christopher (pictured left), executive director and founder of AMPED, a free program that empowers youth through music education.

“One of our goals is to keep our kids safe and away from things like crime and poverty that can derail them or kill them,” says Christopher.

When Christopher started AMPED in 2014, he says he had “zero knowledge of how to run a nonprofit” but possessed a strong passion for helping and supporting kids. As the nonprofit grew to meet the demand for services, it became increasingly clear that Christopher would benefit from professional development to develop a stronger foundation and to thrive in his leadership role.

“I knew that I desperately needed to learn more, but as a small nonprofit, the funds are not there. Then along came the Alden Fellowship and the opportunity to receive the support that I needed to help to build a stronger organization through personal training,” he says.

Despite the COVID-19 crisis, Christopher has been able to pursue professional growth by taking online classes through Harvard’s Executive Education Program.

“We have been able to do so much more because of the tools and knowledge that I received in my class at Harvard University,” says Christopher. “The fact that I was taking this class as COVID-19 began to escalate allowed us to pivot almost immediately and make significantly positive impact on our kids and their families.”

Image taken before COVID-19 restrictions.

This year’s Alden Fellows — the seventh cohort to date — represent a wide variety of organizations that carry out invaluable services: Maria Price, executive director of the St. John Center; Sonja Grey, executive director of ECHO (Exploited Children’s Help Organization); Elizabeth Wessels-Martin, president and CEO of the Center for Women and Families; and Kellie Watson, equity  and compliance officer at Metropolitan Sewer District. (all pictured left)

“The Alden Fellows are leading great work in our community, especially at this critical time when so many are impacted by COVID-19,” says program officer VanHook. “When our nonprofit leaders are strengthened to steer their organizations more effectively, they are ready to answer the call during challenging times like the ones we are experiencing now. This is an investment in leaders, but it is also an investment in our community.”

The Alden Fellows program is made possible by the generosity of Mr. William O. Alden, Jr. a donor at the Community Foundation of Louisville. Are you interested in empowering Louisville’s leaders with the skills, knowledge and networks necessary to create lasting impact in our community? You can support the Alden Fellows Program with a financial contribution to CFL.

Contact Chelsea VanHook to learn more about the Alden Fellows, or visit for information on ways to give.