Change at CEO for House of Hope

The House of Hope board of directors has announced that Elizabeth Barbella will step down from her position as chief executive officer of House of Hope effective July 1, 2015.

Mrs. Barbella will be taking on the role as executive director of the Martin County Community Foundation.

The House of Hope board of directors conducted a search to assure a seamless transition, and Rob Ranieri was introduced as the new CEO of House of Hope during a staff meeting on May 27. Mr. Ranieri, has a strong business background and a long history of non-profit leadership.

“The legacy Elizabeth leaves is an important step in assuring that House of Hope continues to grow its mission and vision,” House of Hope board chairman Barrett Jones said. “The House is strong and thriving. Elizabeth has been instrumental in building a solid management team that is well-prepared to continue providing the highest level of service to those in need throughout Martin County.”

House of Hope was founded in 1984 by a handful volunteers who provided sandwiches and other meals to local people in need. The agency has grown into the primary safety net agency in Martin County, with service centers in Stuart, Hobe Sound, Jensen Beach and Indiantown. Today, House of Hope touches the lives of more than 5,000 people per month, providing food, clothing, furniture, financial assistance, information & referral, and life-changing case management services.

When Mrs. Barbella started at House of Hope in August 2011, the agency’s goals for the future included increasing the ability to distribute fresh and frozen food, reorganizing the agency’s food pantries to offer the “Client Choice” means of distribution, and expanding the case management component of House of Hope’s programs to offer people guidance and planning toward greater stability and self-sufficiency.

Mrs. Barbella succeeded in all of those areas and more.

  • During her tenure, food pantry service grew significantly in quantity and quality:
    — In 2010, House of Hope provided 304,000 pounds of food – the equivalent of more than 253,000 meals. In 2014, the agency provided 500,000 pounds of food, or the equivalent of about 410,000 meals.
    — Grants and donations provided commercial-grade refrigerators and freezers, a refrigerated truck, and other equipment that meant House of Hope could provide wider array of healthy foods, including fresh produce, frozen meat, and deli and dairy products.
    — All House of Hope food pantries converted to Client Choice, meaning that people qualifying for help are able to select food based on needs and preferences in their household. This promotes dignity and reduces waste.
  • House of Hope locations in Hobe Sound and Indiantown moved to larger, more visible and accessible locations. Jensen Beach has been re-organized for better service delivery.
  • Project HOPE (Helping Others Progress through Empowerment) was fully implemented with improved staffing, procedures and data systems. Project HOPE assures that all people seeking services from House of Hope have the opportunity to engage in case management for a longer-term outcome of success.
  • House of Hope’s main thrift store moved to U.S. 1 to provide greater visibility and revenue. A corresponding expansion of services at Bonita Street is in the planning stages.

As a recent a testament to her work, the Hobe Sound Community Chest in February honored Mrs. Barbella with the Hobe Sound Community Service Award.

“In the three years since Elizabeth became CEO of House of Hope, she has transformed the agency into one of the most dynamic and forward-thinking agencies in Martin County,” Community Chest board officer Joe Frelinghuysen said while presenting the award. ”Under her leadership, House of Hope is developing into a multifaceted organization that addresses a broad range of what its clients need most to turn their lives around and become successful. House of Hope is broadening way beyond its original food pantry and financial assistance roles.”

Mr. Jones expressed his fellow House of Hope board members’ heartfelt emotions, saying, “While we are saddened to see her go, Elizabeth will maintain a strong presence in Martin County as she embraces the responsibilities of her new position.”

Kenneth Norman, chairman of the Martin County Community Foundation’s board of directors, affirmed those emotions in a statement. “We are fortunate to have found a leader with Elizabeth’s experience and vision to succeed Jillian Vukusich, who is stepping down as executive director in June,” Mr. Norman said. “Elizabeth brings a record of community collaboration, program evaluation and strategic leadership.”

Information about House of Hope is available online at or by calling (772) 286-4673.