Cari DeSantis

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Cari DeSantis headshot
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Location: Upper Marlboro, MD
Founded: 1963
Industry: Nonprofit

Cari DeSantis
President and CEO

Melwood

Melwood’s mission is to advocate for and empower individuals with “differing abilities,” says president and CEO Cari DeSantis. To fulfill this mission, Melwood provides employment opportunities, job training and supportive and recreational services to more than 2,000 people in the Washington, DC metro region.

Fun Fact: “I dedicate my personal time to writing about inspirational people who are changing the world through their individual efforts to help others.”

“While the majority of our employment opportunities are generated through the U.S. AbilityOne program, we also provide support to our program participants who wish to pursue employment with private employers,” says DeSantis. To place its participants, Melwood relies on partnerships with local businesses such as Giant Food Stores, Safeway and Lowe’s Home Improvement.

Another example of Melwood’s impact is Camp Accomplish, an inclusive camp for children with and without disabilities. “Our highly trained staff creates a fun and safe environment that gives parents a level of comfort to leave their child — who may require more physical or emotional attention — in our care,” says DeSantis. “In a natural setting, children are able to interact with other campers who may be very different from them. We help them recognize that their differences are what makes them unique and valuable.”