A Bittersweet Farewell to a CIANA Family Member

Maria Eliades, former Director of Development and Communications, at her desk. Photo: Mahbub Khuda.

On October 25, CIANA said goodbye to Maria Eliades, our Director of Development and Communications. Having originally started out at CIANA as a volunteer in the spring of 2018, Maria has overseen all our programs, fostered relationships with clients and community leaders, and has been a mentor for our interns and volunteers.

She shares what she has learned at CIANA and how her experience here has shaped her as a person with Micah Dicker, our NYIC VISTA.

Micah Dicker: What has been your favorite part about working with CIANA?

Maria Eliades: The people. I’ve really been very lucky in everyone I’ve worked with here from the time I started off as a volunteer to coming on here full time, between the clients who are really lovely and who remind you every day of, oh yeah- this is why I’m doing this work; to all of my colleagues; to all of the interns I’ve been really fortunate to work with. The people have absolutely been my favorite part.

MD: How do you think you’ve grown or changed as a person throughout your time here?

ME: I think I’ve learned that I’m capable of a lot more than I thought I was. I have a really varied background, from working as a journalist to working in PR, to teaching, and I feel like this is the first role that has brought all of that together. It’s also shown me that I’m actually able to think of things in a sort of- I mean this isn’t a “business context,” but in a way in a business context: how do you think about ordinary strategy for an organization? How do you figure out how to get people to give money, and at the same time, how do you advocate for people so it’s really in a way stretched me in certain directions? It’s shown me that I can take on a lot at the same time and still keep things really organized and keep things going. I hope also that I’ve learned more about being a leader and seeing how much more I have to go in that.

MD: What have you found rewarding from your time here?

ME: Feeling that I’ve made some difference. I remember when I was involved with the Green Light campaign. CIANA is part of the New York Immigration Coalition, so we’re part of various groups where we often study things or report from the field of saying, this is what’s going on right now. But with the Green Light campaign, it was some direct advocacy of being there in front of Senator Michael Gianaris’s office and doing a picket line and doing speeches, and also putting it out there on social media. And eventually that act finally passed, so it was really exciting to see something concrete out there. So that felt like a real major win. And also something like, there’s a result from everything I’m doing, because otherwise, a lot of the work that I’ve been doing in development and communications is really incremental. We’ve definitely done a lot better with the people who are following us and increasing our audience and reactions, but as I’ve said pretty consistently during my time here, both communications and development is a slow burn; you do not build relationships over night. So even though I can see in the numbers, great that we’re doing "this" much better or "this" is happening, I think something like that, a real, concrete moment of something I have done, has had this impact as part of this bigger push to make positive change, especially right now when everyone really wants a lot of- I don’t know if they want hope but I think they do secretly without knowing it. It does make me feel like I’ve actually accomplished something.

MD: Were there any specific projects or campaigns that you worked on here that stand out in your memory?

ME: Green Light stands out because of what I was mentioning before, but as for other campaigns we’ve worked on here, I think my first Giving Tuesday campaign really stands out because I had never done one before, even though I had been involved with social media marketing earlier in my career. To really be able to create something from st