Karen DiCarlo has always had a big heart for the organization that employs her. In fact, she volunteered for 27 years at Santa Claus, Inc., before being hired as the executive director more than a decade ago, allowing her to know both the charitable and professional sides. Ms. DiCarlo was a close friend of the founder of the organization, which was established in 1952 and provides critical services to youth in California’s Inland Empire by empowering families through year-round and seasonal programs, not just at Christmastime.
Ms. DiCarlo’s primary role is to build partnerships with Santa Claus, Inc., donors through fundraising, working with large companies, and forging strong relationships to encourage and help them to steadily provide for more children. Her responsibilities also include overseeing organizational operations and making decisions on the company’s behalf, managing a force of nearly 250 volunteers, and leading programs and purchasing. Repeatedly performing above what’s required or expected, her dedication has been awarded multiple times during the past 25 years for her dual roles as an executive director and a longtime local business owner of Golden Bear Cottages and Golden Bear Cottage Gifts. Ms. DiCarlo’s honors include receiving the California Woman of the Year Award from Sen. Connie M. Leyva; the Big Hearts Award from The Unforgettables Foundation; the Entrepreneur of the Year Award from California State University, San Bernadino; and the Business Person of the Year distinction three times from the Oxnard Chamber of Commerce, among other accolades.
Ms. DiCarlo is an alumnus of San Bernadino Valley College, where she majored in English. She attributes her success to her passion for helping other people, which is a way of life for her and the reason she joined Santa Claus, Inc. When she was 12, her mother showed her the value of volunteering by taking her to the local nursing home on weekends to visit and talk with the residents. She also was an active volunteer at her school as a youth. Ms. DiCarlo’s husband has also been a mentor for much of her life, and she received valuable guidance from leaders while working or volunteering through the years at other organizations after graduating from college in 1968.
Today, Ms. DiCarlo cites the most rewarding aspect of her career as knowing that she and her colleagues are making a difference in the lives of the children and families they serve. She advises anyone who aspires to enter her profession to have a genuine love for people, especially children, and to be prepared for a lot of work. In the coming years, she hopes to continue in her role at Santa Claus, Inc., which is celebrating 70-plus years and where she still desires to meet new goals she has set for the organization. Ms. DiCarlo describes Santa Claus, Inc., as strong and ready for at least another 70 years.