Following an extensive national search process, leaders of L’Arche communities across the U.S. have joined the L’Arche USA Board of Directors in confirming Laura Giddings as the next Executive Director and National Leader of L’Arche USA.
“Laura will be a great National Leader,” L’Arche USA Board Chair, the Rev. Matt Rhodes said. “She has consistently demonstrated leadership within L’Arche in the U.S., playing an active and critical role to help L’Arche USA and U.S. communities navigate the challenges of the past few years.”
Giddings comes to the national role after a 20-year history with L’Arche, first as a volunteer, then a Board member, and the last eight years as Community Leader of L’Arche Tahoma Hope in Tacoma, Washington, where she helped the community to grow and flourish despite challenging times.
“I appreciate now more than ever the gifts that L’Arche is poised to share with the world,” Giddings said. “What drew me to L’Arche and what continues to inspire me is the commitment to one another that people in L’Arche communities live out daily, fostered by the power of authentic relationships across differences. I’m honored to be selected to support the continuing process of discovery and renewal that will ensure L’Arche thrives into the future.”
L’Arche brings people living with and without disabilities together to create community. There are 17 L’Arche communities across the U.S. and nearly 150 in 38 countries around the world.
L’Arche USA Board Member James Hoey convened and led a comprehensive team with representation from community-level leaders, people living with disabilities, caregivers, and national and international teams to select Giddings as the next U.S. national leader. The months-long effort included town hall-style listening sessions and other forms of engagement with over a hundred members of the L’Arche family, helping the discernment team deeply understand and seek out the qualities needed to lead L’Arche in the U.S. at this critical moment.
“We offer an alternative to institutionalization and isolation for people living with disabilities at a time when nearly half a million people are waiting for disability services,” Rhodes said. “Leadership of our movement will be critical in meeting that demand while also addressing the systemic problems that keep people living with disabilities pushed to the margins.”
“Society has changed since L’Arche’s U.S. beginnings 50 years ago in Erie, Pennsylvania and so have our challenges and opportunities,” Giddings said. “It will take all of us working together as leaders and community members with and without disabilities to co-create and make accessible a more vibrant community life for everyone.”
Giddings holds a Bachelor of Arts from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. and a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School. She is an experienced nonprofit professional, having previously served as Member Services Director for Child Care Aware of Washington and as a patient experience coach at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health. Giddings lives in Tacoma with her spouse and enjoys gardening, reading, travel and time with family.
Giddings will begin transitioning into the role this fall, assuming full duties in January, 2024.