Project 16:49 new executive director hired

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Shelly Birkelo
Thursday, July 25, 2013

JANESVILLE—Project 16:49 has been operating solely with volunteers since 2008 when a group of concerned citizens began planning to provide a safe and stable place for homeless Rock County teens.

That changed this week when its board of directors hired the organization's first paid staff person—an executive director.

Tammy DeGarmo, Janesville, was selected from a pool of nearly 60 applicants, said Dave Johnson, board chairman.

DeGarmo rose above the other candidates, he said.

Three of the other four finalists were not local, and DeGarmo has a passion for nonprofits, Johnson said.

“With her background from the American Red Cross, United Way (of North Rock County) and Forward Janesville, she is on a first-name basis with so many people in Rock County. That moved her up on that learning curve vastly,” he said.

Johnson said DeGarmo teared up during the interview when she talked about nonprofits.

“She's sincere,” he said.

Although DeGarmo loved working for United Way and her job with the Red Cross, this position was an opportunity for her to “run her own show,” Johnson said.

DeGarmo agreed: “I wasn't necessarily working to change jobs, but at the same time, how do you not pursue something you said you would?”

She was referring to first learning about Project 16:49 when she was campaign director for United Way.

“I always said someday they would be in a position to hire a director and that this would be its own organization,” DeGarmo said.

She just didn't know at the time she would be the director.

“I was thrilled,” she said, when offered the job.

Johnson said DeGarmo's background with nonprofits is a plus.

“There are some people who work to have a job, and there are others who love what they're doing. You can tell Tammy loves what she does and always has. She's also a skilled fundraiser, and when you know how to raise money and know whom to ask, that's two-thirds of the job skills set. Everything else can be an acquired skill,” he said.

Johnson said DeGarmo is skilled at tapping resources.

DeGarmo agreed these skills would be helpful and necessary to make Project 16:49 work.

“I have a strong network in this area of people. So what I don't know or can't do on my own I have a lot of people I can turn to and know where to get the help and resources we might need,” she said.

DeGarmo's has an education in communications with an emphasis on public relations from Pittsburgh State University in Kansas.

“I can play a key role in building awareness and the importance of the organization's mission,” she said.

DeGarmo's first day on the job is Monday, Aug. 5, when she will attend the board's monthly meeting.

“Our goal is to have offices in Beloit and Janesville, where we believe we will be able to find donated space in both cities,” Johnson said.

In addition to fundraising, DeGarmo will oversee the acquisition of homes to house homeless students.

Hiring DeGarmo means consistency for the organization, Johnson said.

“Volunteers are only as good as their available time. We've been running this (project) with volunteers. Now, we have a paid staff person to make sure it grows,” Johnson said.

“This is an exceptional hire,” he said, “and a great find for Project 16:49.”

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