Lou Giramma’s childhood in a close knit neighborhood in Rhode Island showed him the significance of community. “My parents immigrated from Italy. I grew up in this neighborhood with a family-run bakery. A guy named Peter worked there. He was part of the family business and part of the community. He had a developmental disability, but we never thought about that at the time. He just delivered the bread. It never occurred to me that he wouldn’t or shouldn’t be part of the community.” Lou sees empowering the people we serve as vital to the development of strong communities. It’s the essence of his vision for our work now and into the future.
Lou was on his way to becoming an academic and was in a PhD program at Brandeis when he took a summer job at an intensive residential treatment program for adolescent girls with serious emotional disabilities and mental illness. It was his first chance to help others find meaning and his first encounter with a human service leader. He never went back to Brandeis, and his calling became both service and leadership.
Lou noticed early in his career that non-profit human service organizations didn’t always develop effective leadership structures or the developmental opportunities necessary to meet each person where they are, whether they were persons served or employees. “Human services has often fallen down around good leadership and good management.” What he saw too often were inconsistent services and uneven outcomes, with gaps in leadership. Since then, his service commitment has been to the field as well as the individuals we support.