Hesed House’s New Leader

When Michael Cobb learned that Ryan Dowd leaving his job as Executive Director of Hesed House, he saw an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“I love doing this type of work, but I was doing it out of the south suburbs,” said Cobb. “This is my home. I’ve been here since 1993 in North Aurora and serving up and down the Fox Valley corridor. So just the simple fact that this door opened I had to at least check it out.”

Cobb’s work as the interim executive director of South Suburban PADS made him stand out among the other applicants. There, he oversaw the completion of a 77-unit supportive housing complex designated for the homeless.

Cobb was officially welcomed as the shelter’s new Executive Director at a party in his honor, allowing residents to see in him what the board saw.

“He brings so much good experience,” said Carolyn Sprawka, the President of the Board of Trustees for Hesed House. “He is local so he knows what problems are facing the Fox Valley and he brings that knowledge and experience to Hesed, so we were so thrilled he applied for the job.”

But, Dowd leaves great expectations for Cobb to fill.

After spending nearly half of his life helping the homeless at the shelter and eight years at the helm, Dowd is moving to Washington D.C. to start his own not-for-profit, The Centre for Faith and Human Rights, a religious group aimed to serve others internationally.

“The church really comes alive in oppressed countries, with people who feel called to fight torture and rigged elections and arrests,” said Dowd. “It’s a dream.”

Dowd’s sad to leave, but is confident in Cobb’s ability to pick up where he left off.

“Ultimately, my goal for him is to end homelessness,” said Dowd. “Shut Hesed House down because it’s not needed anymore. That’s the goal, and he can get there.”

A goal shared by Cobb, who is ready to hit the ground running.

“One key thing to end homelessness is housing so we have to find ways to provide more affordable housing for our guests,” Cobb said. “If not, they will end up back at our door. We’ll never turn them away, but it’s much better if they are able to walk into their own door.”

Cobb said his first order of business will be to meet with his clients, then he will know what his first project will be.

Dowd plans to work closely with Cobb in the coming months during this time of transition.


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