Valencia Breckenridge opened prayer time on her first day at GraceWorks Monday with reading 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, in which Paul discusses how any part of the body is no more important than any other part.
It was particularly appropriate as the new GraceWorks’ CEO/President began her leadership of its 32-member staff whose individual gifts help the 21-year-old ministry provide immediate and long-term resources to struggling families.
“No one part is more important than any other,” Breckenridge said. “We are all gifted differently. I freely admit my shortcomings, and I know some of you have gifts I don’t have. And I hope my gifts will be helpful to you.”
Breckenridge comes to GraceWorks from the Chicago area, where she served 25 years in nonprofit fundraising and management.
In that time, she served as executive director of Crisis Pregnancy Services, director of communications and public relations for Opportunity International, director of development for Pioneer clubs and major gifts officer for Feed My Starving Children.
It was during that last post when she fell in love with Tennessee while on a business trip to Chattanooga. And she started thinking about where God needed her to go.
She had spent the previous four years at Feed My Starving Children, a $40 million nonprofit that provides meals around the world. A mentor said her relational skills would fit better in a smaller ministry. Breckenridge knew she was ready for something less broad.
“I felt God was calling me to go deeper,” she said. “At Feed My Starving Children, God was calling me to go wide. There, I went to Haiti one time. I didn’t get the chance to connect with people. Here I can serve neighbors who are really my neighbors. That feels right with how God made me.”
Breckenridge’s background suits her for this position, she said. She grew up poor – in the inner-city projects of Chicago. She was the only one of her family to go to college, and she has an MBA from Northwestern University.
“I know what it is to struggle,” she said. “For me to be here just completes a circle for me. God has answered my prayer above and beyond. GraceWorks just fits so well with my personal philosophy that I am my brother’s keeper.”
— by Kathi McClure