In November, Grapevine Relief and Community Exchange, commonly called GRACE, hired Rebecca Cox to be the next chief executive officer. Cox replaced Shonda Schaefer, who stepped down from the role after 16 years of service. Stacy Pacholick has served as interim executive director of GRACE from June to November.

GRACE is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides food, clothing, financial assistance and other vital necessities to those in Grapevine and northeast Tarrant County. It operates a food pantry and community clinic; provides emergency assistance and transitional housing; and hosts several seasonal programs, such as its summer feeding program and Christmas Cottage.

Cox’s background includes being the face of homeless housing services in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with lead roles at the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition and the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, according to the GRACE website.

She was most recently the CEO of Victory Therapy Center in Roanoke, which specializes in equine-assisted therapy.

Community Impact spoke to Cox about her new role, the nonprofit’s future goals and the services that GRACE provides throughout northeast Tarrant County. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You have a lot of experience in nonprofits. What made you interested in this position?

Honestly, I wasn’t looking for a new position at the time. My name was provided to the GRACE board by a mutual colleague who I had worked with in a prior capacity. The position was forwarded to me with a request to consider applying. I will forever be grateful for that connection made. When I toured GRACE for the the first time when considering the position I immediately felt the care for others that permeated the walls of the GRACE offices and hallways. Every place I have worked in the past has had a worthwhile mission. At GRACE, however, every person I met during that tour, you could tell had such a love for the GRACE mission and individuals served by GRACE. After meeting and learning more about what GRACE does and the positive impact we have in the community, I couldn’t imagine being in any other place and immediately moved forward in being considered for the role.

What has your time been like so far with GRACE?

I have been met with nothing but welcoming support from our GRACE family—from staff to board to those that generously support the GRACE mission through giving of their time and treasure. I feel beyond blessed to have been entrusted with such an amazing mission and I pray every day that God will grant me the wisdom and humility to be worthy of such a calling.

For those that are unfamiliar with GRACE, how do you explain what all you do?

GRACE provides hope to individuals and families who have found themselves facing oftentimes the most difficult and challenging times of their lives. One of the things I love most about GRACE is that our staff services are not cookie cutter. We intentionally have care managers, not caseworkers, because we support care for families as they walk through difficult times and aren’t managing a case as just another number. Every family, every interaction, every support plan is unique and determined collaboratively alongside those seeking the help.

What are some things people can expect under your leadership?

Collaboration. GRACE serves so many people in so many ways, but as we continue to see the need grow each year, especially in the past couple of years, it is more and more apparent that no one agency, no matter how great, can be successful alone. It takes a community. As a servant leader, I tend to evaluate the need and then lead from behind rather than standing in front. From that vantage point, it is easier to see the full need and where everyone fits into the solution. I will be a successful leader when everyone is playing their part, everyone feels supported and free to speak up when they see a need. The community comes together to find and take action on a solution. That is the leader I aspire to be.

Are there any projects that you guys are looking to deliver in 2024?

We are definitely looking at expanding housing support. The average rent is increasing and roughly averages $1,700 a month. That equates to a 60-hours-a-week job at the current minimum wage just to cover rent, leaving no room for emergencies, rising food costs, utilities or child care. Many of the families that come to GRACE for help are working, many are working several jobs, but they can’t keep up with the rising costs. Later this year, our board will be meeting to strategize together with GRACE staff leadership about what part of the solution to this affordable housing crisis that GRACE can play. I do not know exactly what that looks like just yet, but from my experience, there are many ways GRACE can expand to help families move from surviving day-to-day to fully thriving and breaking through generational poverty for their families.

What are some of the staples at GRACE that people may not know you do?

One of the things that people are surprised by is the volume of the service provided. Every month at GRACE we see anywhere from 500 to 600 households reaching out for help. Last year, that equated to 10,301 individuals that were touched by GRACE with 104,621 unique services provided between them. GRACE, in my mind, has three main service pillars. Those are combating food insecurity, providing accessible primary health care to those who have no other health care options available to them and ensuring housing stability for families. Inside those pillars are many different strategies that allow GRACE the flexibility to create individualized support plans for each family that will uniquely address their specific needs to get them on the road to total self-sufficiency.

What have you been most proud of in your short time with GRACE?

Honestly, I have been spending a lot of time learning what GRACE does and I grow prouder of being a small part of that work the more I learn. Each story I am told by our team, sharing how we have had a lasting positive impact on those who need us most fills me with renewed pride and gratitude.