Rising from volunteer to CEO in a span of five years is a remarkable accomplishment for anyone. For Kat Lilley-Blair, who heads up Family Promise of Colorado Springs, it’s the continuation of a remarkable journey to change her life and the lives of others.
Raised in foster care from the age of 8 until she graduated high school, Lilley-Blair was determined to overcome her difficult childhood. An unexpected pregnancy only intensified her resolve, motivating her to enroll at Pikes Peak Community College to continue her education and secure a strong future for her child. She transferred to the University of Colorado at Boulder soon after, where she earned a degree in business administration. Then, she says, “life happened.”
“In 2013, my life shifted dramatically, and I unexpectedly found myself homeless with my six children,” Lilley-Blair explained. “I was searching for resources and kept hearing ‘No.’ No one could help me. I had too much money or too little money or too many kids — there were all of these if-then scenarios built into the system that ended with ‘No.’”
Her persistent search for support led her to Family Promise of Colorado Springs, an organization committed to helping vulnerable families achieve housing stability. It was there that she finally heard the ‘Yes’ she needed.
“Family Promise really helped support me not only in overcoming homelessness but being able to look in the mirror and see value again,” she said.
Lilley-Blair and her children became stably housed and she decided that she wanted to give back to the organization. She began as a volunteer and eventually joined the staff as a volunteer coordinator.
“It was just a really easy fit because I found myself in a position where I was supporting the people who supported me through one of the hardest times of my life,” Lilley-Blair said.
She transitioned through multiple roles over the next several years, including positions in operations and finance. When the organization’s previous CEO began the process for retirement, Lilley-Blair was selected by the board to step into the role.
“It was remarkable to see that the board supported the trajectory and saw that the organization could grow under my leadership,” she said.
Alongside a team of determined and passionate advocates, Lilley-Blair has focused on expanding and improving outreach to unhoused families in the community and ensuring that the services offered are provided in a dignified and respectful way.
“When a parent walks through a door and says, ‘I can’t provide for my children’s basic needs,’ that is a desperate moment,” she said. “It’s also an incredibly brave moment because it is very, very difficult to walk into a room and tell complete strangers that you need help.”
Her work has not gone unnoticed. In 2018, she received an invitation to speak before the Financial Services Committee of the House of Representatives, one of her proudest accomplishments to date.
“It was a moment for me where I felt like people were listening, like people actually cared and wanted to hear a voice of experience,” she said. “I could effect change on a larger level that might really help families.”