We had the good fortune of connecting with Lenita Dunlap, MPA, MA and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Lenita, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I love working through crisis situations and helping individuals and organizations experience freedom. I have such a heart for the third sector and believe we can truly change the world with proper resources and support. I’m an advocate for change and will help executives achieve their goals. I took the long route to discover how to live a dream-fulfilling life and still pursue purpose in work. I’ve had my share of challenges as well as triumphs. I share the shorter routes with my clients to experience the freedom to cultivate a work environment that honors the work that you and your team achieve. My commitment to mental health access was birthed from advocating for my family’s mental health journey. I witnessed firsthand the difficulty in finding proper support, as well as the lack of affordability, diversity, and cultural competency needed to create safe psychological spaces for healing. Leveraging this experience led me to revamp a failing after-school program to a creative and innovative after-school program based on research centered around the effects of trauma on refugee children. Instead of focusing solely on academics, I introduced trauma-informed care to the refugee serving space within after-school work that later received international recognition and accolades. In this previous leadership role, I grew the organization’s annual budget by 300% within five years, led a rebranding campaign, expanded program reach, garnered international attention, and earned certification for all sites. For the past 20 years, I have dedicated my life to service and advocacy for access to mental health and equitable education for marginalized communities through working in educational and nonprofit organizations that uplift and empower young people and their families. As a consultant and thought partner, I specialize in guiding teams through crisis situations and introducing their missions to various stakeholders. As a Community Development and Mental Health expert, I combine research, policy, and expertise to empower, motivate, and rally teams through facilitation and leadership development. 

What should our readers know about your business?
I’m an empathetic and experienced coach and consultant. I help clients to SLOW DOWN, BREATHE, and CELEBRATE. Working within the third sector for the past twenty years in various roles, I am someone that not only has practical experience, but I also love to research. Currently, as a Ph.D. student in Public Administration and Policy at the University of Texas at Arlington researching burnout, refugee resettlement, equity and, leadership, I understand the trials and triumphs of nonprofit leaders not only practically but theoretically. I hold two masters: one in Education and the other in Public Administration. I also earned certificates in nonprofit management and marketing from the Center for Nonprofit Management. My experience and education give me the space to speak directly and hold stakeholders accountable to themselves. I help clients to prevent burnout, or recover from it, teaching them to advocate for their success by identifying needed resources and support. I am married to my love Garland and I am the mother of one inquisitive son, Luke, who blesses our lives with so much uniqueness and intelligence that it is hard to believe he is only nine years of age. I’m honored to have the opportunity to come alongside leaders, learning of their dreams, and allowing them to pursue them freely. One of my greatest joys is seeing my clients execute our collective ideas and their goals accomplished. I customize and tailor my work to my clients’ needs from development and fundraising plans to executive and pre-marital coaching, I’m indeed blessed to do this work. I love that I can teach or speak on a specialized topic or give a presentation in many areas. Over 20 years ago, I rode a bus on the southside of Chicago. Through my rides, I would always people-watch, and learn of their stories, challenges, and triumphs. From there, I realized how important community development is and the third sector fills vital gaps in services provided by the public and private sectors, so I decided to dedicate my career to working in nonprofits with the goal to empower leaders and create innovative programming that tackles real social issues. From working at the front desk to eventually serving as a CEO, I’m humbled to hear so many stories of the human experience. I’ve seen how we sometimes struggle to understand how important cultural relevance is to service. I’ve learned how undiagnosed trauma has communal and generational impact. My heart is for the leaders on the frontlines, leading organizations that are doing life-saving work. I’m particularly and painfully aware of how Black women have led in various nonprofit leadership roles although they are underdeveloped, under-resourced with demands of fulfilling unrealistic expectations. As a result, funding is not equitable and most boards aren’t diverse. So I advocate, speak, and teach to expose and educate.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
During these COVID-19 times, I mostly visit outdoor places and good take out. https://www.eatinvasions.com/ Love their fresh made to order food and we know the owner Airric from our beloved church Shoreline City. The Cardi B sandwich and Brussel Sprouts are my absolute faves! My favorite tacos are from Taqueria El Si Hay Address: 601 W Davis St, Dallas, TX 75208 I grab four tacos with a Horchata, yum! Right outside of Dallas is the beautiful Grand Prairie, and our favorite spot we’ve frequented is Firehouse Gastro Pub. My son wanted a birthday party and they have a beautiful large outdoor space. https://www.firehousegp.com/ Dirty Bird Fries are an absolute must! Love Halycon http://halcyoncoffeebar.com/location/dallas great drinks and wonderful food! Interfaith Family Services is led by a dear friend and colleage, Kimberly Williams. https://interfaithdallas.org/ Their work in restoring hope and breaking the cycle of poverty is fascinating. Families are restored and women are valued. Abide Women https://www.abidewomen.org/ led by co-founder and executive Director, Cessiyle Smith, life changing work restoring maternal justice to black women in South Dallas. I’m in awe of their commitment. I love Royal China off Preston and Royal. Their food is always fresh and the owners are the best people! https://www.royalchinadallas.com/ I go to Addison often and walk around Addison Circle and enjoy the nice outdoor space. Empuso Cafe https://espumosocaffe.com/ grab an empanda and a cafe con leche, OMG, fix your life! Krab Kingz 7. 102 N McKinney St, Richardson, TX 75081, the shrimp and fish platter yum! For staycations, try the Four Seasons villas, private and beautful. Also loved our staycation at The Crescent https://www.crescentcourt.com/. hotel restaurants have been a treat becuase the quality of food is great and they aren’t crowded. Ocean Prime for some scallops and risotto, a must https://www.ocean-prime.com/ However, I’ve enjoyed visiting dear friends in their lovely backyards. I even updated my own to enjoy. I hire my lovely friend Desiree Jordan of Desiree Design Co https://desireedesignco.com/ for the job and it’s my favorite place right now.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Tessa Tubbs Ekukanju. Tessa is a phenomenal leader and HR consultant. Leading business and HR initiatives for corporations and client groups around the globe, she’s been successful in devising and executing large-scale implementations of programs and systems, and refining current strategies to produce greater results, more efficiently. Whether building a new team, developing a new product or solution, or finding a better way to get things done, she thrives on collaborating with leaders to share ideas and leverage resources at our disposal to improve effectiveness. Not only is she one of my very best friends, she has been a mentor and an important listening ear to keep me grounded and focused on what’s important. Recently, my mom, Betty Riley, shared my birth story and how I came into this earth while she was riding the elevator to get to her delivery room. My mom reminds me to be my most authentic self. To never run away from work I’m passionate about and to pursue this life with zeal and purpose. I will never fit in or be the status quo, not only is that fine, it’s what the world needs.

Website: www.lenitadunlap.com
Instagram: @lenitariley
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lenita-dunlap-mpa-ma-32b5921b/
Twitter: @LenitaRD
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lenita.dunlap
Other: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/color-money-suzanne-smith/?trk=read_related_article-card_title https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/AFP/AFP_Oct2020/index.php#/p/Cover1. page 56

Image Credits
Cocoriah Photography Unsplash-Clay Banks and Christina Morillo

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