Kathleen Durkin found her calling as a high school student in Philadelphia, when she signed up to volunteer at a school for people with disabilities.
She thought of it as a way to give back, make her summer a little more productive. Decades later, she's still at it and on July 1 took over as executive director of The Arc Baltimore, one of the region's largest organizations for adults and children with disabilities.
"I think a lot of people just fall into this work and fall in love," said Durkin, 52. "It was an opportunity to give back and I found my home there."
The Towson resident studied psychology and philosophy at the University of Scranton and later earned a master's in special education at Johns Hopkins University.
She's been with Arc Baltimore for 16 years, most recently as its deputy executive director, working alongside outgoing executive director Stephen H. Morgan, who is retiring after 45 years with the organization.
The Arc provides a range of services, such as respite care and education programs for families, adult day programs and housing support.
But job training and placement are among the services where Durkin sees the biggest opportunity for The Arc to make a difference.
"I think there's still so much to do in terms of unemployment," she said.
Beyond helping its clients find meaningful work, the organization wants to dispel misconceptions among employers about hiring individuals with disabilities, she said.
"When we help someone find a job, we are helping the employer find the right match," Durkin said. "It's not charity... this is a hard worker who's going to do the job."
Durkin's job is one with around-the-clock responsibilities, so when she gets away from the office she seeks relaxing activities, such as reading and jewelry-making.
In honor of Preakness this year, she soldered together pieces of colored glass to make a black-eyed Susan pendant.
But as a self-proclaimed soccer mom, Durkin doesn't have much downtime. Her 12-year-old son plays soccer, basketball and baseball, depending on the season.
Durkin and her husband also have a 23-year-old son and a pet lizard, won two years ago at a carnival.
The family recently found out that the lizard, Hyper, is female. Durkin joked that the news was a pleasant surprise that improved the male-to-female ratio in the house.
"I never thought I'd be the mom who went and bought live crickets," Durkin said, "but I am."
executive director of The Arc Baltimore
Education: Bachelor's degree from University of Scranton, master's degree from Johns Hopkins University.
Hobbies: Reading, making jewelry