By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, [email protected]

After six years of service from Patty Stonesifer, who announced her retirement in November 2018, Martha’s Table announced its new President and CEO Kim R. Ford, who will be the first Black woman to lead the organization when she begins on April 1.  The native Washingtonian said she is honored, humbled and ready to take the helm in order to help improve the lives of District residents.

“It’s just such an incredible honor.  I’ve known Martha’s Table pretty much my entire life. I used to volunteer with them when I was in middle school and upper school, and so this is like coming full circle,” Ford told the AFRO in an exclusive interview.

Kim R. Ford was just announced as the new President and CEO of Martha’s Table- the first Black woman to lead the almost 40-year-old non-profit. (Courtesy Photo)

A non-profit organization that has spent almost 40 years working to improve D.C. residents’ lives, Martha’s Table emphasizes its mission of supporting “strong children, strong families and strong communities,” through providing access to high quality education, food and family and community backing. As someone who has spent years finding ways to contribute to education, economic recovery and workforce development, working at Martha’s Table is, not only full circle but also right up Ford’s alley.  Ford said that all of her previous work experience was geared towards, “making sure that people have opportunities and making sure they are set up for success.”

“My most recent experience has been on the lifelong learning spectrum, with adults engaging in community and workforce development and people often refer to it as a ‘second chance system,’ when so many people have never had a fair first chance,” Ford, who recently worked as, acting assistant secretary in the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education, explained.  “So I’ve seen what we need to do and things that we can do on the lifelong learning spectrum.  What’s so exciting about going to Martha’s Table is being apart of a team that’s working in early childhood education.  And to make sure that our young residents of the District of Columbia have a true first shot.”

Armed with an impressive resume, the new Martha’s Table president also worked at the University of the District of Columbia as dean of the Workforce Development and Lifelong Learning Division and served in President Barack Obama’s Administration, where she helped lead the execution of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which allocated more than $350 billion in recovery funds to encourage economic growth.  Her experience in education seemed to be a bonus for the Martha’s Table family.

“I am personally thrilled to have Kim join us as the next leader of Martha’s Table,” said Dr. Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, dean of the School of Education at American University and Martha’s Table board member. “Her impressive background in education and focus on lifelong learning will elevate our mission to ensure all children in D.C. have the opportunity for their brightest future.”

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) also weighed in on Ford’s appointment.

“I congratulate Martha’s Table on selecting Kim R. Ford as their new president and CEO,” Norton said in a statement.  “Martha’s Table plays an integral role in supporting strong children, strong families and strong communities in our city, and Kim’s background in workforce development and education will serve Martha’s Table well.”

Norton’s support of Ford comes as a major boost, as the new CEO ran against and lost to the Congresswoman in the 2018 election.  Although she did not win the District’s congressional race, Ford emphasized to the AFRO that her major goal has always been to help D.C. residents improve their livelihoods.

“What holds constant is that this is for the residents of the District of Columbia.  I want to serve the residents of the District of Columbia.  All residents.  And I am particularly sensitive to those who have not been able to participate in the prosperity that has happened, and unfortunately that tends to be Black and Brown people,” Ford said.

Since Martha’s Table has steadily been working for District residents, the new president hopes to carry on the legacy.

“We’re going to continue on an upward trajectory because that’s what the residents of the District of Columbia deserve. We’re not going to plateau.  We’re going to continue supporting strong children, strong families, strong communities.  We’re going to increase our enrollment in early childhood education by 40 percent. We’re going to continue to increase our number of joyful food markets, which in just the past few years has gone from four markets to 50 markets.  So we’re going to go deep into the community and we’re going to do more in the community.”

Although she does not want people to think as the first Black woman to lead the organization that she is solely hoping to help people of color, Ford acknowledges that Black and Brown District residents are in dire need for community support.

“We’re not going to do things to the community, we’re going to work with the community and the community that we’re in is predominantly Black and Brown and we want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to achieve their dream. It makes no sense that D.C. continues to be prosperous and that so many people have not been able to experience that prosperity,” Ford said.