Willow names Marisol Ramos-Lopez president, CEO

Willow names Marisol Ramos-Lopez president, CEO

Willow Domestic Violence Center has tapped a long-time nonprofit leader as its new president and CEO.

Marisol Ramos-Lopez
Marisol Ramos-Lopez

Marisol Ramos-Lopez most recently served as commissioner of the City of Rochester Department of Recreation and Youth Services, administering and overseeing the operations of several bureaus and facilities with more than 400 staffers and an annual budget of $15 million.

Ramos-Lopez has more than 20 years of experience in management positions in local government. Under former Mayor William Johnson Jr., Ramos-Lopez was appointed chief of staff, making her the youngest senior official and highest-ranking female in his administration.

Ramos-Lopez was born in Miami Beach and came to Rochester in the late 1990s. Since then she has been involved in a number of area nonprofits, serving as a director at Causewave Community Partners, the Center for Youth Services Inc., the Ibero-American Action Development Corp. and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Ramos-Lopez is a founding board member and former chairperson of the Bivona Child Advocacy Center, which opened in 2004. Bivona works in partnership with other agencies to provide comprehensive, coordinated services to children affected by abuse and neglect.

In 2009, while overseeing the Northeast quadrant team for the City of Rochester, Ramos-Lopez told the Rochester Business Journal that her most meaningful career-related accomplishment was helping Rochester residents better their neighborhoods and create a better sense of community.

“I am honored to have been selected as Willow Center president and CEO,” Ramos-Lopez said this week. “My career path and focus on families and children has led me to this organization, whose mission mirrors my own. I am committed to continuing to strengthen the prevention of domestic violence in our community and provide a safe haven for those who need it.”

Ramos-Lopez last year was named an Athena Awards finalist by the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and a Woman of Excellence in the Rochester Business Journal’s inaugural Women of Excellence Awards this year. In 2004 she was named one of RBJ’s Forty under 40 recipients.

“Marisol’s depth of experience will allow Willow to continue its comprehensive and collaborative approach to providing life-saving domestic violence services,” Willow’s board chairwoman Barbara Purvis said. “Willow is delighted to have Marisol at the helm as we enter the next phase of our service to the Rochester community.”

Ramos-Lopez replaces Jaime Saunders, who left the organization in January to serve as president and CEO of United Way of Greater Rochester Inc.

“I could not be more thrilled. Marisol is a community leader and very passionate for this community,” Saunders said. “But more than that, she brings so much heart to this important role. In her direct work with youth she can bring so much focus on the prevention side, as well as the heart of how we can best serve these families.”

Saunders said she’s excited to see the organization’s continued growth and Willow’s expanded services that Ramos-Lopez will shepherd for the nonprofit.

Formerly known as Alternatives for Battered Women Inc., Willow’s mission is to prevent domestic violence and ensure every survivor has access to the services and supports needed along the journey to a safe and empowered life.

Willow Domestic Violence Center raised more than $8 million in a three-year span to open a new facility last year. A nearly $5 million grant from the state Homeless Housing and Assistance Corp., coupled with more than $3 million in philanthropic support helped open the center.

The new Shill Family Building features 49 beds and is the largest domestic violence shelter in Upstate New York. Willow has doubled the size of its counseling center and expanded its hotline call center to field more than 5,000 calls annually.

The shelter also features a first-of-its-kind onsite pet shelter to keep all family members safe and offers advanced protections and security system.

“Willow reaches more than 7,000 individuals every year in this county and you can easily get lost in the complexity of it,” Saunders aid. “Willow Domestic Violence Center is the only certified provider in the county. It is the go-to in terms of intimate-partner violence within Monroe County, and it’s been a standout.”

United Way has supported Willow since 1982, Saunders noted, when very few people wanted to think about battered women or domestic violence.

Saunders noted Willow’s “continued growth and the trajectory that it’s on, both on prevention, as well as making sure that families who are suffering from domestic violence have the services and supports they need.

“I can’t think of a better leader to take it to that next level and to the next chapter.”

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