Christie Angel: Rooted in service

Virginia Brown
Christie Angel, CEO of YWCA Columbus

Growing up on the northeast side of Columbus, Christie Angel knew from an early age that she wanted to be involved in service.

Her father, a civil servant who ran city and nonprofit housing programs, would take her along on weekends to visit auction properties for the homeless.

“He drew the short straw and took the teenager to look at these blighted properties,” she says. “I spent a lot of time with him, and even though I’m sure I didn’t want to go at first, it became our routine.”

The work stuck with her. Routine turned to interest and eventually exposure as the young Angel got to know Columbus City Council members and actively participate in the government process. She knew she wanted to stay involved. “And to follow in [my dad’s] footsteps in particular,” she says.

Read about all of our CEO of the Year 2020 award winners.

In 2017, Angel landed her dream job: CEO of YWCA Columbus.

Decades of volunteering with the organization led to chairing the board of directors. With a background featuring roles as Mayor Michael B. Coleman’s deputy chief of staff and director of external affairs and services for the city, among other positions, she says, “The one constant was the YWCA.”

The mission is what drew her in: hard-working people helping the city’s most vulnerable members—homeless women and children—while advancing equity and inclusion for all.

When Angel started the job, the social justice movement was seeing a resurgence. “I felt like there was a place for the YWCA in that discussion,” she says.

YWCA Columbus has been around since 1886, its downtown building renovated in 1929 by five strong women who couldn’t get a bank loan. “They used their husbands’ names,” says Angel. In 1958, it was the first Columbus organization to desegregate its swimming pool. Twenty years prior, the organization had desegregated its dining room. And it launched the first publicly funded childcare program.

“We are an organization of firsts,” Angel said. “We stand on the shoulders of those women—and men—who fought for those changes.”

In her tenure, Christie has transformed Women of Achievement to include younger women. This year, in its third season, the social justice event Activists & Agitators had over 1,000 people join virtually.

The organization’s core work involves meeting the acute needs of homeless women and children in a 50-bed shelter, a women’s residency program aimed at uplifting women with mental illness, addiction, disability, or job insecurity, and children’s day programs.

Through programs like Women of Achievement and Leadership for Social Change, the YWCA celebrates successes, and educates and guides the next generation of social equity leaders.

“At times, we’re activating, and yet we always want to be respectful and hear the other side,” Angel says. “We don’t have all of the answers, but we come at the work with the best of intentions, and we invite people in.”

Outside of work, it’s been a challenging year for Angel, who has lost a number of family members, one to Covid-19. She points to her blessings: faith and family. “Even though we can’t be together because of the virus, they still keep me grounded.”

As for 2020, “I’m built for change and transition. All my experiences prepared me to lead the organization through this pandemic with some calm and ability to reach out to friends and others to ask for help and guidance,” she says. She also celebrates her team and the YWCA board of directors, the chair of which is Sandy Doyle-Ahern, this year’s CEO of the Year winner (tie) in the small business category. “They continue to make me proud every day, and they make it easy to lead.”

Moving forward, the YWCA will continue to safely house people, “And we’ll prepare for what vaccination means and looks like for our people.”

Angel and her team also plan on building out their existing social justice programming and racial equity training. “It’s a big focus of ours, to offer that more broadly in the community and to continue to work with our community’s health agencies around the notion of racism as a public health crisis.”

Virginia Brown is a freelance writer.

Christie Angel

President and CEO, YWCA Columbus

Age: 56

In position since: 2017

Previous: Principal, government relations and public affairs, Calfee Strategic Solutions (2015-17); deputy chief of staff, external affairs and services, city of Columbus (2012-15); vice president, government affairs, Sean P. Dunn & Associates LLC (2007-12); director of government and external affairs, AT&T (2001-07); city of Columbus deputy chief of staff, internal operations, (2000-01); legislative aide-City Council (1998-99); financial systems automation project manager (1997-98); legislative analyst (1993-97)

Employees: 184

Revenue: $11.5 million (2019)