Saint Francis Ministries Names New Executive Director of Development and Celebrates an ‘Above-and-Beyond’ Career

Saint Francis Ministries is pleased to announce that Ginny Ellis has been named the nonprofit child and family services organization’s new Executive Director of Development. Ellis will lead the Saint Francis Foundation, the philanthropic arm that supports the mission of Saint Francis.

She brings multiple years of management, event planning, administration, and recruiting experience to her new position.

Ellis comes most recently from Unified School District 259 – Wichita, where she worked as a secondary social studies teacher at the Brooks Center for STEM & the Art Magnet. Prior to teaching, she served as Event Director for Wichita Mom, LLC, during which she organized four annual signature family and mother-focused events, developed best practices, and recruited and directed a team of more than 40 volunteers for events.

“We are thrilled to have Ginny in this new role,” said Chief Operating Officer Lora Winchell “Her impressive background in community service, coupled with her passion for improving the lives of vulnerable individuals, makes her an exceptional fit for this role. We are confident that her contribution will be instrumental in advancing our mission and furthering our impact with the children and families we serve.”

In her new position, Ellis will lead a Foundation team dedicated to cultivating, building, and maintaining relationships with community partners and stakeholders in support of the ministry’s many programs and services. She will lead philanthropic efforts in all seven states in which Saint Francis operates to support the more than 11,000 children and families entrusted to our care.

“I am incredibly honored and humbled to embark on this meaningful journey with Saint Francis Ministries,” said Ellis. “The opportunity to contribute my passion for young people to an organization dedicated to providing healing and hope to children and families is truly a privilege.

I look forward to collaborating with our exceptional team and engaging with our generous donors and partners to drive our mission forward and create a lasting impact on the lives of those we serve.”

Ellis earned her B.A. in Political Science from Kansas State University and her M.A. in Teaching – Secondary Education from Wichita State University. Ellis has also held numerous leadership positions in Wichita civic organizations such as United Way of the Plains, Price-Harris Communications Magnet PTO, Sedgwick County Election Office, and Junior League of Wichita, Inc., where she has served as Director of Marketing and Vice President of Membership.

Saint Francis celebrates an ‘above-and-beyond’ career

A woman stands behind a table covered with a green cloth and decorated with a "Congrats" banner. The table has cakes, paper plates, wrapped gifts, a bouquet of flowers, and balloons. The woman is smiling, wearing a lanyard, and has curly hair and glasses.

Reintegration Regional Vice President Valerie Leon was effusive in her recent praise of Dawn Collins, Independent Living director for Wichita, as she announced Dawn’s retirement and party after 38 years in in child welfare.

“Dawn has provided above-and-beyond services, support, encouragement, and presence to one of our youth over the years,” said Valerie.

More about that later.

For now, let’s just say that Valerie’s words were well deserved, along with the well-wishes of her colleagues who gathered in the training room at Harry Street to celebrate a wonderful career.

Dawn originally wanted to be an attorney and earned her undergraduate degree in political science and public administration in her home state of Pennsylvania.

“Social work was not my original goal,” said Dawn. “My husband, Ed, was in the Army and went to Korea for a year, and I stayed in Pennsylvania and took a job doing child protective service work. That’s where I got the bug and have had it ever since.”

After that first job, Dawn then proceeded to work in child welfare in every state where the Army sent her and Ed. So, after Pennsylvania, she worked at agencies in New York, then Hawaii, and finally Kansas, where she took a job with Youthville and earned her Master of Social Work from the University of Kansas. She served in multiple leadership positions before and after she came to Saint Francis Ministries 11 years ago.

As an IL director, Dawn has served on committees and platforms throughout the state, representing and advocating for youth in the Independent Living program.

“Many of our youth have appreciated her commitment to serving them as they moved through the program into independence,” said Valerie.

One of those youth is Zalecia (read her story here), who spent years in the system, including lots of time at Salina West due to her extreme trauma and behavioral challenges. Frankly, the odds were against her. Fortunately, she had Dawn on her side, and that has helped make all the difference.

With Dawn’s and the IL program’s support, Zalecia now lives independently, rents her apartment, drives (although she still needs a car), and volunteers at a sober living community. She will finish her high school studies this summer and start college next fall. And no one is more proud of her than Dawn.

On April 23, Zalecia was released from custody, and Dawn spent the day with her, took her to lunch, and bought her a banana cream pie (her favorite) to take home and share with her friends at her apartment community.

Though she’d just retired with plans to spend time with her own family and grandson, Dawn remains part of Zalecia’s life.

“I’ve been taking her to her therapy appointments, and I just made the decision to help her … The system did her wrong. Her biological family had its challenges, then she was adopted through the system and abused by her adoptive family. She came back into the system at 12 with more trauma.”

She’s grateful for Saint Francis, but I tell her, ‘we couldn’t have done what we’ve done without you making the changes you made.’”

Such commitment to kids in care guides the mission and vision of Saint Francis Ministries, and Dawn will be the first to admit that she’s not the only one who has it.

“Looking back over my career in child welfare, I have had some very challenging opportunities, but now those seem the most rewarding,” she said. “Walking alongside someone in their journey through transformational change is an incredible honor. I have been blessed over the years to work with many other ‘soldiers’ in this field that share the same passion and dedication to helping families and youth. And while I have retired from this work, others at Saint Francis will continue this important and necessary mission. I pray for their strength and perseverance each day”

A man and a woman stand in front of a table with cakes and a "Congrats" sign. The man is speaking while the woman smiles. Another woman is cutting cake, and a man in striped shirt is in the background. Balloons and flowers decorate the table.

Picture of Shane Schneider
Shane Schneider

Shane is the Editorial Content Manager for the Marketing and Communications Department at Saint Francis Ministries.

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