New Staff Spotlight: Patti Ovalles, Chief Program Officer

Patti Ovalles, Chief Program Officer

What sparked your interest in social impact work?

College was a big turning point. As a person of color like me on a predominantly white campus, I craved that feeling of belonging, a home away from home. That’s when I started a Latin sorority chapter, not just for myself but to build a community for others like me. I discovered a passion for helping others and fighting for justice, which became super important to me. After graduating, I knew I wanted to pay it forward and be the support system I never had had as a first generation Afro-Latina growing up in a single-parent home. So, I jumped in at a community center, helping young people, especially minorities who often face challenges, navigate college, and stay on track. That’s how my journey in social impact work began, and it’s been amazing ever since!


What is your vision for YWCA Central Massachusetts’ programming in the next few years?

When I joined the YW, my goal was not to ‘fix’ what was working but rather build upon it. Ideally, every program would be fully staffed and bustling with even more participants in a few years; I dream of this place bursting with life, good vibes, and, even more, people experiencing all the fantastic things YWCA offers. It’s already a special place, and I can’t wait to see it reach even more people in our community!


Are there any unique routines or practices that help you stay creative and energized in your fast-paced role?

Staying connected to people helps me stay fresh. I’m a huge pop culture person, , especially coming from a youth focused background it helped me relate to the youth I worked with (they kept me young, even if they gave me some gray hair, too, ha-ha!). But really, the key is just having genuine interactions and getting to know people. Hearing their stories and experiences sparks new ideas and burns that creative fire!


How do you navigate the emotional challenges of working on critical social issues? What keeps you motivated?

As a licensed clinical social worker, I’ve seen some tough stuff, especially in recent years with folks experiencing trauma and homelessness. Dealing with that can take a toll, but I rely on the tools I have and remind myself I can’t fix everything at once. It’s about chipping away at the more significant issues, like broken systems, bit by bit. To stay sane, I separate myself emotionally and indulge in some guilty pleasure reality TV and time with my loved ones. It’s all about balance.

Board President Profile: Christie Bik

Christienne “Christie” Bik

Board President

Christie Bik (Shrewsbury) was elected to serve as president of the YWCA’s board of directors. Christie has held various positions on the YWCA’s board of directors for 11 years with increasing roles of responsibility including vice president and president-elect. She also served as a member of the executive committee and chaired the YWCA’s Public Policy Committee. Most recently, Christie served as a tri-chair of the YWCA’s LIVE Capital Campaign, spearheading the fundraising campaign for the YWCA’s $24 million renovations of its Salem Square facility in downtown Worcester.

Christie is director of government affairs and public policy at Fallon Health. In this role, she supports Fallon Health’s business objectives and mission by focusing on strategic public, community, and government relations opportunities. Before Fallon, Christie spent eight years in the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office as an assistant district attorney. Previously, she was a legislative assistant for Congressman James P. McGovern and legislative aide for State Representative Robert Spellane. Christie is a graduate of American University and received her Juris Doctor from Suffolk University Law School. She is a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association. In 2007, Christie received the Massachusetts District Attorney Association’s Spotlight Award, and in 2014, she was honored with Worcester Business Journal’s 40 Under Forty award. Christie also serves on the Boards of the New England Council and the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans.

What does “empowerment” mean to you?
Empowerment is when your voice is heard and acknowledged and change happens.

What are you most excited about being the new YW Board President?
I am very excited about the next chapter at the YWCA Central Mass. Under the leadership of our new CEO, I see so many ways the YWCA can continue our mission in our community and our nation.

What advice do you have for young girls today?
My advice is to stay engaged and committed to your beliefs. We need to all of you to be engaged and make change.

Who Inspires You?
Young girls inspire me especially my daughter. They are so strong and committed to making the world a better place and making sure they will be leaders in it.

What’s Your Favorite Quote?
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”