After 32 years at the Community Action Council of Howard County, CEO and President Bita Dayhoff will be retiring from the organization.
During her time leading the Columbia-based nonprofit that works to provide housing assistance and emergency services, Dayhoff increased the total number of individuals the organization served from 3,000 to 53,000 a year and increased the number of children served in the Head Start program from 182 to 362, according to a news release.
“I came to CAC as a young person, very much in a sense of pride in the skills that I was bringing to the table for the organization and very quickly realized that I had found a home where I could learn and give back and be inspired and challenged,” Dayhoff said in an interview.
“Every day I’m in awe of what this organization does and am thankful for the people that I’ve worked with and the people that I’ve worked for.”
Joining the Community Action Council in 1989, Dayhoff said serving at the organization has been one of the highlights of her life.
Reflecting on the past 11 years serving as CEO and president, the Fulton resident said one of the things she is proud of is the community garden program the organization launched in 2010.
“The community garden is a program that gives legacy to the meaning of the work that we do in so many ways,” Dayhoff said. “It’s about believing in our capabilities, getting down in the dirt and planting the seed for the future, knowing that our actions today can be fruitful tomorrow.”
She also acquired funding and the location for the opening of the Bauder Education Center, a state-of-the-art early childhood education center in the Long Reach community that opened in June.
Additionally, she secured funding to purchase the Howard County Food Bank as a permanent and centralized location off of Route 32 to serve the most vulnerable residents of the community.
Ashley Groves, director of community engagement, has worked with Dayhoff for about a decade.
Joining the organization in her early 20s, she said Dayhoff took a chance on hiring her as a military spouse and recent college graduate.
“[Dayhoff] saw something in me that I’d never seen in myself before,” Groves said. “She started to become so much more than a boss or a supervisor; she became a mentor, personally and professionally, just as a woman, as a mother, as a friend and then a boss.”
Dayhoff said she hopes the nonprofit will continue its caring culture in the future.
“We have developed a culture at CAC in which people who work for us or come to us, receive support that allows them to excel,” Dayhoff said. “We want you to grow and reach for your dreams and hopes and be supported by this organization in pursuit of those dreams and the same goes for those who come to us and we have the privilege of giving a helping hand.”
After she retires, Dayhoff said she plans to work as a real estate agent with the Long and Foster office in the Hickory Ridge village.
A nationwide search for Dayhoff’s replacement will begin soon, according to the release, and the next president and CEO will be announced in the spring. Dayhoff plans to stay with the organization until June.