Partnerships move at the speed of trust – and few would know that better than the woman who’s spent 36 years of her career working to improve her community and outcomes for children by bringing people together.

Linda Gleason is one of ten trailblazing women in the Central Valley who will be honored at the Marjaree Mason Center’s 34th Annual Top Ten Professional Women & Leading Business Awards on Friday, October 13, 2017. All it takes is one glance at Linda’s resume to understand why. Linda began her career in the world of advertising, wherein she discovered the power of words and images in order to convey messages that mattered. From there, Linda spent a decade working for State Farm as an insurance agent, where she further honed her ability to connect with people and listen to their needs. Despite her success in the insurance industry, Linda left to care for her three children, as well as pause and reflect on where her true passions lie.

Linda Gleason is the founding Director of The Children’s Movement and the Executive Director of The Fresno County Cradle to Career Partnership.

One night, while attending a fundraising event at her church, Linda listened to the keynote speaker’s story about moving his family into the heart of downtown Fresno from Clovis – a story that represented a movement of people in Fresno taking the “tale of two cities” personally and seriously and getting involved to be part of the solution. Accomplished, successful people were moving into some of Fresno’s poorest neighborhoods, and leaders were raising awareness about local disparity, intense collaboration, and targeted strategies to improve outcomes for Fresno’s most underserved populations. It was during this fundraising event that Linda decided she wanted to be a part of this movement.

From there, Linda began her work to bring partners together to improve outcomes for Fresno’s most vulnerable, particularly elementary school-age children. After years of building relationships, listening to the struggles of the under-served, and carefully identifying the areas of most need, Linda founded The Children’s Movement in 2011. The Children’s Movement (TCM) works to facilitate and advocate for and with the community so that it has the capacity, will, resources, and follow-through to realize positive outcomes for all children. Linda led this work with enthusiasm and tenacity in order to build a non-partisan, cross-sector, grass roots movement of civic engagement to tackle the biggest challenges facing children. The idea behind this movement was to make children the priority in all decisions by shifting the culture in Fresno County to one that supports deeper collaboration and an alignment of community efforts. Today, under Linda’s leadership, TCM has over 4,000 members. TCM’s signature event, the State of Our Children breakfast, hosts over 500 people. Check out the fantastic video below that was aired at the most recent State of Our Children event on August 31, featuring Scripps National Spelling Bee winner Ananya Vinay and leaders from across the Valley!

Annually, TCM leverages $46,000 of in-kind support, including $20,000 of volunteer support. TCM regularly convenes leaders from 95 organizations representing 10 different sectors at Action Forums held six times per year. Despite this good work, as TCM is made up of many managers, service providers, and practitioners who are close to the work happening for children across Fresno County, Linda and her team realized in 2015 that they would need the support of institutional leaders. The orchestration of bringing together cross-sector institutional leaders to join the cause led to the establishment of the Fresno County Cradle to Career Partnership (C2C). Linda was instrumental in both the design and implementation of C2C, and as such, was asked to become the Executive Director in 2016. Linda’s efforts allow C2C to work in collaboration with over 50 top institutional leaders to ensure that key issues for children remain a top priority for our highest-level officials.

Linda’s work has touched countless members of the community, from the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority students at Fresno State, of whom she mentors, to the leaders across 10 different sectors who have been informed and educated by her about the importance of, “doing more by working together.” Preston Prince, Executive Director and CEO of the Fresno Housing Authority (FHA), is one such leader. Prince often shares the story of how, prior to being exposed to Linda’s work, his field of expertise and daily experience was narrowly focused on housing development and policy. After exposure to the work of TCM and C2C, Prince realized his facilities provide affordable housing to thousands of at-risk children, and he seized the opportunity to advocate for children by providing more services to FHA residents and their children. This effort has made it more convenient for parents and their families to connect with the resources they need to be healthy and successful, and Prince has adopted a wider perspective and more collaborative approach to his work.

In the little spare time she has, Linda serves on the board for Hands-On Central California, is a member of the James Irvine Foundation’s New Leadership Network, and serves as an advisory board member for both the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program and Fresno County’s Local Dental Pilot Program. She is also a member of the League of Women Voters and the Fresno County Local Planning Council. Linda has a demonstrated, proven commitment to serving her community and an affinity for bringing people together. The Central Valley Community Foundation considers Linda a valuable partner and is proud to work with her in ensuring positive outcomes for our children.

The Central Valley Community Foundation would like to congratulate Linda on being recognized by the Marjaree Mason Center. We invite you to attend the awards on Friday, October 13, 2017. For more information about the awards, and to purchase tickets, please visit the Marjaree Mason Center’s website.