Mary Cacioppi

Right Place, Right Time

Mary Cacioppi has never been afraid to take chances. Whether it’s jumping 14,000 feet from an airplane or swimming with stingrays, the Rockford native thrives on exploration.

“I love trying new things,” she says. “I rely so deeply on my strong faith that I know everything is going to be OK.”

So, it wasn’t really a leap of faith when she shifted careers in 2017, leaving the economic development arena (she previously worked for the Rockford Area Economic Development Council) for a new opportunity with a faith-based nonprofit organization.

Cacioppi became executive director of One Body Collaboratives, whose mission is to organize, develop, and coordinate church and faith resources to rebuild lives and transform communities. Cacioppi, who is just one of two employees, oversees the entire organization including fund development, marketing and community outreach. She’s also project manager of the Bridges Out of Poverty Project, which is managed by One Body Collaboratives.

It was at the urging of the organization’s founders, Al Barsema and Lou Setter, that Cacioppi came on board in the first place.

“My heart was in it but I couldn’t wrap my head around it,” she says. “It was so different than what I did in the past. I knew my next job was going to engage my faith, but I didn’t know what it meant at the time. I just needed to jump in and take that leap of faith. I’m glad I did.”

Recently, Cacioppi has become a certified national consultant, traveling the country helping communities to strategically meet their goals of reducing poverty.

“What we realized with One Body was that we were putting a Band-Aid on the crisis of the day and not helping people long term,” she says. “So, we re-evaluated and created a more proactive, sustainable approach. There are 33 communities that have a Bridges Out of Poverty program. We are providing the financial means to implement classes that teach individuals how to build their own resources and move toward self-sufficiency. Individuals want something more for their life and their family. You don’t have to be in a real poverty situation.”

Over the years, Cacioppi has volunteered for many organizations including Next Rockford, Rockford Network of Professional Women, and her alma mater, Boylan High School. She makes physical activity a top priority – skiing, golfing and weight training four days a week.

“I love everything I do,” she says. “I believe it’s important to be strong in mind, body and spirit.”