Kaitlynn O’Leary spends her busy work day on her feet, managing a warehouse filled with donated furniture, directing clients to shop for free professional clothing, and helping lighten the burden of poverty one individual and family at a time.
O’Leary is the director of operations at A Wider Circle, a non-profit organization dedicated to poverty eradication through the provision of basic need items (e.g., beds, dressers and household goods), workforce development, and long-term support for individuals and families.
“My favorite part of my role is overseeing the 30,000 volunteers who donate their time to A Wider Circle each year,” said O’Leary. “I feel that we are part of the solution to poverty.”
It was at The Catholic University of America that she first felt a calling to volunteerism and service. Throughout her undergraduate career in politics and theology, O’Leary volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, travelling to underserved communities in New Orleans, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and North Carolina. By junior year, she was elected to the executive board of Habitat for Humanity, organizing and leading others on service trips in the Washington, D.C., area and across the country.
“Participating in service opportunities in college shaped my career path because it taught me how much I enjoy helping other help people,” she said. “Catholic University built a bridge for me.”
After she graduated in 2015, O’Leary chose to spend a year of service working in rural Virginia with the Appalachia Service Project, a non-profit organization focused on emergency home repair.
“You don’t need to travel far to find poverty, it’s right in our backyard,” she said. The last U.S. Census record lists 43 million people in the United States living below the poverty level.
For O’Leary, her Catholic faith is a large part of her decision to dedicate her career to poverty eradication. “Being comfortable in my faith helps me to live 'love as a verb',” she said. “As Catholics, we are called to be servant leaders and that is something that resonates strongly with me.”
In the future, she hopes to find more opportunities to continue her work in finding solutions to put an end to poverty.
“I am passionate about helping people rise out of poverty,” O’Leary said. “And wherever that passion takes me, I hope I am able to wake up each day addressing poverty issues and helping give back to my community.”