Two familiar faces are taking on the top leadership roles of Climb Wyoming as the organization celebrates its 35th year helping single mothers gain skills that move them and their children out of poverty.
Katie Hogarty of Laramie and Molly Kruger of Cheyenne are poised to take on the mantle of leadership for the organization, each having already served in other roles for Climb for more than a decade. Hogarty will be the new chief executive officer, and Kruger is taking on the role of chief operating officer.
“We have such complementary skillsets,” Hogarty said. “I don’t know that I have ever been so honored to work with somebody as capable as Molly. She is the smartest human I know.
“I feel so safe and stable moving into the future with such a strong partner. I think that’s important. I don’t think this would work without each other. I think we really compliment each other’s skills.”
They will be using those skills to continue the work Climb has been doing in Wyoming since 1986 – teaching single moms both job and life skills.
Founder Ray Fleming Dinneen, who has led the organization for more than three decades, will now shift her focus to helping other entities use the model Climb has created to fight poverty by moving people into sustaining careers.
Hogarty and Kruger officially start their new roles Oct. 1, but they have been working closely with both Dinneen and Climb’s board of directors to make sure the transition in leadership goes smoothly for both the staff of Climb and the mothers they work with.
“We have a visionary plan with our board so that the organization is not super impacted from the transition,” Hogarty said. “It feels really stable for the organization that we’ve been working alongside Ray in this transition for the last year. We’ve had the opportunity to really learn what it feels like to be in these roles for the last year.”
Most recently, Hogarty was the director of external relations for Climb, but when she started with the organization in 2010, she worked as the Laramie program director. Hogarty attended law school at the University of Wyoming, and after she graduated, she did health and human service policy work in the governor’s office, which gave her an opportunity to connect with Dinneen.
“I was instantly drawn to the work that Ray was doing as it connected to policy and poverty alleviation – really helping to move Wyoming’s most vulnerable families out of poverty,” Hogarty said. “It was so human-centered. It was so fabulous to learn about how the programs worked with moms directly. I was just really drawn to that work and was able to come to Climb shortly after that.”
In her new role, Hogarty said she will be responsible for guiding the organization into the future.
“My ultimate responsibility is the sustainability and the future of the organization,” she said, noting she will focus on deepening Climb’s impact and using their expertise at every level, from locally to nationally.
Kruger has been serving as director of programs and systems for Climb, and going forward as the COO, she will be responsible for making sure all the operations of the organization are streamlined. She started with Climb in 2008 as a mental health provider. Then she transitioned into the Cheyenne program director for about 10 years.
She said during that time, she learned the ins-and-outs of how the Climb programs worked, and she grew to have really high expectations for how they should look.
“I could see the impact it had on the moms we were working with, and could see the outcomes and how successful the model and the structure were for Climb,” Kruger said. “I felt responsibility – originally to get that right in Cheyenne – and, of course, that grew into how do we maintain that consistency and those outcomes across the state.”
Now, she will use that passion and knowledge to maintain that consistency to really support efficient and effective operation of the Climb program.
Both Kruger and Hogarty are more than just leaders of Climb – they are also believers in the program’s ability to change lives.
“Women are gaining social capital, they’re gaining connections in the community – it’s not just a job training and placement program, it’s a lot more than that,” Kruger said. “I think that’s part of what helps women maintain their wage over time is that they’ve made some pretty large transformations as they come through Climb.”
For Hogarty, seeing Climb graduates successfully working within the community she lives in is gratifying.
“To see women who have been isolated for so much of their lives be truly integrated into the community feels very rewarding to me,” she said. “I know that has a positive impact in our community, not only financially, but just communally – when families move from surviving to thriving.”