I am delighted to share that Mallie Kludt was awarded the Volunteers of America 2022 Leadership Award in Leadership in Administration at our recent National Conference. It is an honor to work with such an incredible individual. The information included in the nomination is impressive, yet just one example of Mallie’s commitment to our ministry.
As you are aware, Mallie has led Volunteers of America, Dakotas' COVID-19 pandemic response over the past two years. In this time, she has been a champion for the health and safety of our employees and clients while balancing the financial, staffing, and social-emotional impacts on our organization. This approach has proven successful in keeping our affiliate strong during the most challenging times.
Mallie's work responding to the pandemic began earlier than most. Before the nation became familiar with quarantine guidelines, contact tracing and social distancing, Mallie was already deep into these uncharted waters. In March of 2020, a participant in one of our residential programs became one of the first five people in the state of South Dakota to be diagnosed with COVID-19. At the time, little was known about the virus, personal protective equipment was scarce, and fears were high. At the same time, our participants needed us more than ever. Mallie worked tirelessly with state and local health officials to limit further exposure and secure personal protective equipment so that our staff could continue providing services to our clients - many of whom would have no place else to go without Volunteers of America.
From that first case, Mallie ensured our affiliate was on the leading edge of COVID safety protocols. She led our affiliate to become early adopters of universal masking for all staff and participants in mid-April 2020. She quickly guided our programs, which serve more than 300 individuals every day through a mix of residential, day and remote services, to develop plans to continue delivering services. With her guidance, all of our programs have continued to operate throughout the pandemic. We are proud that even during the most intense waves of COVID infections, we found safe ways to continue delivering these critical services.
With a mindset that we were on a 24/7 war footing, she led our efforts to inform, provide personal protection equipment, ensure staffing, train, triage, and report the most challenging events within what became a nationally visible "hot spot." Much has and will be appropriately written about the unprecedented years of 2020-2022. For Volunteers of America, Dakotas, and other local entities for which Mallie become a knowledge source, we will remember her unprecedented headship. Her leadership and others' great work resulted in only an average of 4 positive cases per month in the face of the thousands of people served during these months as we fought the terrible COVID-19 pandemic.
Mallie also spearheaded our organization's vaccine education efforts. Through twice-monthly COVID meetings with our leadership and supervisors, she provided our staff with science and fact-based information on vaccine safety and efficacy. When vaccines became available, she worked closely with local healthcare providers to organize multiple on-site vaccine clinics for residents in our residential programming and our employees. As a result of these efforts, by late fall of 2021, approximately 80% of our staff had received the vaccine.
The most telling sign of her leadership throughout the pandemic has been our success in keeping staff and clients healthy. Since the start of the pandemic, we are grateful to have only experienced an average of 4 positive cases per month. This success is the direct result of Mallie's incredible foresight, dedication and leadership over the past 12 months - leadership that has very likely saved lives.
Mallie has served Volunteers of America, Dakotas for 11 years. She began her career in direct service with Volunteers of America, Dakotas' child care and later transitioned to human resources. In 2017, as the result of her commitment, leadership and experience, she took on the role of Managing Director of Organizational Health. In this role, she is responsible for oversight of the agency's human resources, technology and health initiatives. She holds a Professional in Human Resources certification and is a Society for Human Resources Management Certified Professional. In 2020, called by her deep faith and enduring commitment to our ministry, Mallie became a Volunteers of America Commissioned Minister. As a minister and executive, Mallie supports Volunteers of America, Dakotas' 250+ employees and thousands of participants with compassion, knowledge and active service of God.
Please join me in congratulating Mallie on this award.
Dennis Hoffman, President & CEO