Search, Inc, the parent organization of JJ’s List, is part of the Keystone Alliance, a family of nonprofits with missions to support people with disabilities that work together. JJ’s List sat down with Keystone Alliance CEO, Greg Petersen, to ask him some questions about himself, about Keystone Alliance, and about hosting the Disability Awareness Players this past spring.
Tell us about yourself:
I’m a proud father of 13-year-old twins, have been married for 22 years, and have been in the Chicago nonprofit field since 1995. I’m a giant sports nerd, and I enjoy reading and watching science fiction. I also have a 7-year-old, 15-pound dog named Otis who is very crabby.
I’m proud to have been part of Chicago’s nonprofit community since I left college way back in the mid-90s. I joined Search in 2004 to help with Planet Access Company and was part of the team that launched Keystone in 2009. I served as Glenkirk’s CEO from 2017 to 2020. I then came back to Keystone Alliance as its CEO after John Lipscomb’s retirement.
What is Keystone Alliance?
Keystone Alliance helps Search and other organizations like it by doing all of the ‘back office’ work so Search can focus on its mission and programs. Back office work includes paying staff, billing the State of Illinois and other customers for the services we provide, and making sure all of Search’s bills are paid. Back office work also includes making sure everyone has the technology they need to do their job, and that Search’s Human Resources team has the support they need as well.
How/why did it come about?
It came about because Search was approached by another organization called Glenkirk about merging the two organizations. When this happens, one organization goes away and the other organization becomes larger. This wasn’t going to work for Search, for a variety of reasons. Instead, we chose to create a single ‘back office’ to spend less money in this area, and also to allow Glenkirk and Search to focus on mission and program development.
In what ways do the KA organizations work together?
All kinds of ways. In effect the KA organizations are like brothers or sisters – they’re different in their own way, but it’s safe to talk to each other about most anything. When COVID hit, we spoke every day about ‘how are you solving this problem?’, ‘how do you keep everyone safe?’ or ‘is your team doing okay?’. Like close siblings, it’s nice to have someone to talk to.
On a bigger scale, we share information on program best practices. When Keystone was formed, Glenkirk had a clinical program that provided therapy and behavioral supports. Search didn’t have that…yet. Glenkirk shared its experience and plans with us and Search was able to begin its clinical program. In the other direction, Search had the PAC warehouse and PAC store as its social impact businesses. Glenkirk had a company, but it needed help with certain things and Search was able to share its experiences to provide that help.
Search/JJ’s List Disability Awareness Players presented to your staff in May. What impact did the Disability Awareness Training have on your staff?
First of all, the Disability Awareness Players are fantastic, as is the training they deliver.
Our experience in May had a HUGE impact on our staff. The work we do at Keystone is a bit far away from the mission of Search and Glenkirk, so having the Players here helped our team to feel comfortable communicating with people from all different kinds of backgrounds, and it also created a strong connection to Search’s mission.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
The last 2+ years of the pandemic have been hard for everyone. Everything changed so quickly, it’s hard to remember how things were in the ‘before-times’.
That said, I’m so proud of – and impressed by – the dedication of Search’s team – at all levels of the organization. They did whatever they could to keep people as safe as possible during a really scary time. Now that things have stabilized a bit, Search’s team has continued to impress me by reinventing programs within our ‘new normal.’
Looking forward, our collective future is bright because of this dedication. More changes are on the horizon, but we know we can face them together.
Thanks very much for providing this opportunity to share!