Deb Saunders

Deb SaundersDeb comes to Southern Oregon Aspire with over 30 years’ experience working in nonprofits with a focus on serving vulnerable populations. Deb started with the Armed Services YMCA in Boston working with both military personnel and community members. Over the years she worked at several different YMCA’s across the country including Atlanta, Seattle and New Hampshire. Raising her daughter, Amanda, in the Y meant that Amanda was in preschool, afterschool, camp, gymnastics and swimming (she was one of the “Y rats” a name given to staff kids!)

An opportunity opened up at Children’s Cove on Cape Cod to take a grant funded program to a fully-fledged Child Advocacy Center. The Center worked with child victims of sexual and severe physical abuse as well as adult victims with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Deb was there for ten years and was proud to see it become a state of the art provider. While the center had an incredibly important mission it was also an emotionally draining field. When Amanda graduated from high school Deb decided to find a position with more positive day to day stories to hear and eventually moved to Rhode Island to become CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters. The agency focused on matching at risk kids with adult mentors; the main revenue stream was a multimillion dollar clothing donation business. Over 7 years that business grew substantially under Deb’s leadership becoming one of the top producing agencies nationally for Savers/Value Village.

About 3 years ago, Amanda left Boston (way too snowy and cold she said!) and moved to Portland. When she told Deb she was never moving back to New England Deb sold her house, resigned from Big Brothers Big Sisters and moved west to join her. Deb became the Executive Director of Africa Bridge, a nonprofit headquartered in Portland but serving vulnerable children and families in Tanzania. Two years later, she saw the opportunity at Southern Oregon Aspire for a new CEO and decided to apply for the role.

“I am so excited to be joining Southern Oregon Aspire! When I interviewed, I had the chance to meet staff, clients, families and community members. Those conversations were inspiring; touching my heart. The mission of Aspire, ‘Inspiring Unlimited Opportunities for People to Create the Life They Choose’ is so compelling, the work so challenging. I look forward to helping Southern Oregon Aspire maintain its excellence in service delivery and grow to serve more people in ways beyond the walls of the agency. Helping people find meaningful work and helping to create an environment where interaction and relationships can develop is truly exciting.”

To contact Debbie:
Southern Oregon Aspire office 541-476-8241
Direct Line: 541-237-3039
Email address: