KIAC’s Interim Executive Director

Dear Friends of KIAC,

We are happy to share the news that Thangam Chandrasekaran will become Kitsap Immigrant Assistant Center’s Interim Executive Director following the retirement of our current Executive Director, Sally Tellekson. Since 2019, Thangam has made valuable contributions to KIAC as a Board member, volunteer, and most recently, Treasurer. She knows all aspects of the organization, and is ready to provide leadership and continuity from her first day on the job.

Thangam Chandrasekaran

As she takes the reins from Sally, Thangam will inherit a stable organization that has substantially expanded its client services in the four years of Sally’s tenure. Sally started during an aggressively anti-immigrant federal administration that implemented a multitude of harsh policies. Under Sally’s leadership, and with the generous support of our community, KIAC grew from a small nonprofit staffed almost entirely by volunteers, to a thriving organization with a growing paid staff that works with and coordinates our volunteers to provide a wide array of legal and family services.  

Thangam knows KIAC’s programs and services well, having volunteered at many of our local events, often bringing her teenage children to lend a hand.  As a legal volunteer, Thangam underwent the Fundamentals of Immigration course and assisted several Accredited Representatives in their legal work.  She also took on the role of Board Treasurer after KIAC’s long-time former Treasurer retired in Dec 2020. She’s been on the board’s Executive Committee since 2020, where she’s been actively involved in KIAC’s operations and leadership. 

Thangam has a masters degree in accounting, and an MBA with an emphasis in finance and marketing. Her career includes stints in market research and strategic analysis for ACNielsen and Odwalla among others.  She and her children are founding chapter members of the Bay-area nonprofit, Heirs to Our Oceans, which educates and empowers youth in solving the environmental problems of our planet.  She also served on the board of West Sound Academyin Poulsbo. Thangam, her husband and her two children live on Bainbridge Island.

As an immigrant from India since the early 90’s, Thangam understands what our clients experience on a variety of levels – immigration, economics, education and cultural. She is currently awaiting her citizenship interview — a long process that, for all applicants, has stretched to a frustrating 2-year wait. 

“My path as an immigrant has been filled with its share of challenges, struggles, and multiple doors being closed,” says Thangam. “I’ve also had my share of lucky breaks or just one person believing in me enough to go through the extra trouble that my visa status imposed. KIAC’s mission is to offer that support or lucky break, and I feel extremely privileged to have this opportunity to lead KIAC in the pursuit of its mission.”

Sally intends to stay connected with KIAC even after she says her formal goodbye. And Thangam isn’t new to us. So it’s not quite right to bid Sally farewell or give a hearty welcome to Thangam, although we want to say both. Instead, we’ll just say we’re excited about our future, which stands securely on the hard work of the past. We feel blessed by both Sally and Thangam, and look forward to 2022!

Happy holidays and a wonderful new year to all of you.


Althea Paulson, Board President

We’re Hiring!

KIAC is growing, and so is our team! We are currently hiring for two positions. Come work with us!

Recognizing the inherent worth and dignity of all people, Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center works for the well-being and empowerment of immigrants through education, advocacy and social justice.

Legal Services Coordinator: The Legal Services Coordinator will be part of a team that includes immigration attorneys, volunteer Accredited Representatives and a volunteer tax/business team. Our scope of work includes affirmative immigration legal matters (Green Cards, naturalizations, U visas, consulate processing, DACA, etc.), tax and business license work, as well as removal and asylum cases.

Development & Marketing Associate: The Development & Marketing Associate is a key player who works with the Development & Marketing Director and a community of donors and supporters to undergird the crucial work we do. This position will include database management, event planning and marketing and fundraising support tasks.

Find out more about these positions and apply today via the jobs section on our website!

A LETTER FROM KIAC’S EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Dear KIAC Friends and Partners, 

It’s been an honor to be a part of the KIAC team for the past four years. It is, therefore, a bittersweet moment for me to announce my retirement. I will be leaving behind good friends and colleagues, and good work that has challenged and inspired me. 

A little over four years ago, I drove to Bremerton for a job interview for a position with Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center. I didn’t know very much about the organization, other than that they were doing meaningful, on-the-ground work, assisting and empowering immigrants in our region, a population that was under attack by the Administration at the time. 

The interview was held in a tiny office space that lacked heat and hot water and flooded during heavy rainfall. But from those first meetings with staff members/founders, Martitha May and Ray Garrido, and two board members, I knew I wanted to be a part of the work at KIAC. I joined as Executive Director in November 2017. 

A lot has happened over these four years.  For one thing, while our office still isn’t very fancy, we now have ample space in which to do our work, we have both heat and hot water, and the only flooding I’ve seen came from the upstairs tenant’s plumbing. 

Thanks to an amazing group of staff and board members, a cadre of devoted volunteers, and our generous donors and supporters, KIAC has changed in many ways.  We have grown in staff/volunteer size, in the number of programs and services we offer, and in the financial stability that underpins our work. We’ve weathered political storms and a world-wide pandemic. And through it all — every day — this incredible team has shown up and brought their best efforts to the work. Our clients bring their best as well, working hard to make better lives for their families and contributing so much to our community.

The need for succession planning has been clear to me for some time. Last summer, I asked the Executive Committee to begin the process of planning for my successor. I informed the full board at the October meeting. The arrival of my first grandchild has shifted my priorities in a happy way, and the recent recurrence of a health issue made it clear that this is the right time for me to step away from the pressures of the position.

After my announcement in October, the board formed a committee to create a well-executed and positive transition. The committee will keep you informed as the succession plan progresses. I have been working with them and will assist with the transition so that KIAC’s good work continues uninterrupted.

From a personal perspective, this has been a difficult decision.  I’ve been in the non-profit world since 1986, and I’ve worked for big organizations with large staffs, budgets, and endowments. But I’ve never been connected to people as committed and generous as all of you. 

KIAC has always been a team effort, and I am so honored to have been part of this team. I look forward to assisting with the transition and am excited to see what comes next. I thank you all for the opportunity to have been a part of KIAC.
 
With gratitude,

Sally Tellekson, Executive Director – KIAC

Serving our sisters and brothers in the immigrant community

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