Executive leaves corporate world to lead SICSA

Jack Omer is new CEO of animal welfare and adoption nonprofit.

Jack Omer has been an animal lover as long as he can remember so it’s no surprise to him that after a career stretching across a variety of fields, he finds himself heading an organization dedicated to strays.

Omer is newly named Chief Executive Officer of the Society for the Improvement of Conditions for Stray Animals (SICSA) in Dayton.

Born in Lafayette, Indiana, Omer moved with his family to Dayton when he was a year old in 1981.

But Omer’s path to becoming a CEO of a non-profit organization was never a straightforward one. After graduating from Alter High School in 1998, he decided to study hotel and restaurant administration and attended both the University Tennessee and the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.

“I wanted to be a general manager of a boutique luxury hotel,” Omer said.

But as life often does, it sent some surprises his way. Omer’s first job after college was at Target where he started as a human resources generalist. He was promoted several times and planned to go through Target’s management training program.

Then Omer was recruited for a position with the local American Heart Association (AHA) where he had his first taste of working in the non-profit world.

“My chief job at AHA was fundraising,” Omer said. “After that I was recruited by the AIDS Resource Center of Ohio (now Equitas Health) to be their development and special events director.”

Though Omer said he felt like that job, which had him heading up events like the organization’s premier fundraiser “Masquerage” was “made for me,” he eventually was pulled away from non-profits. His career shifted to the corporate world and a job at Brookdale Senior Living in Dayton.

He was quickly promoted from sales director to regional director and then to regional vice president after joining Brookdale in 2009. He said he loved the challenges and fast paced environment.

“When Brookdale and Emeritus merged, we had more than 1,200 buildings nationwide, doubling us in size,” Omer said.

In 2015, Omer moved on to work for the Senior Lifestyle Corporation. When the company’s vice president of sales went to work for StoneMor – the second largest operator of cemeteries and funeral homes in the country, Omer followed her.

“I was thriving in that environment,” Omer said. “Large corporations tend to have very consistent policies and procedures and I enjoy working under those expectations.”

Throughout his time climbing the corporate ladder, Omer also became very involved in the local community and rekindled his passion for animals developed in childhood. He joined the SICSA board in 2012 after adopting two dogs from them. He also developed an affinity for senior dogs and those with health issues that made them more difficult to adopt.

“In July of this year, StoneMor did a restructuring, and my position was eliminated,” Omer said.

Omer launched into a job search with the intention of finding another position within a large corporation, never thinking he’d end up back in the non-profit realm. But when his friend Nora Vondrell, with whom he first worked at the AIDS Resource Center, resigned as the CEO of SICSA, she asked Omer if he’d be interested in serving as interim CEO and helping the organization with their search for a permanent leader.

“I had no interest in the full-time role,” Omer said. “But I agreed to help them out temporarily.”

Omer admits that his life in the corporate world was stressful. He traveled three weeks every month and supervised a team of more than 1,000 people. He agreed to the interim position with SICSA and started that position in late August.

“I was learning about the job and leading the search committee,” Omer said. “We received applications from all over the country.”

But just as Omer was preparing to present his choices for the new CEO, the executive board was working on convincing him to remain in the position permanently.

And Omer realized that perhaps taking the position was a blessing he had never expected.

“I remember coming home one night after a long day at SICSA,” Omer said. “I didn’t feel like I had been at work all day. It was a feeling of reward and not exhaustion. I was making a difference.”

At the end of October, SICSA announced that Omer was their new CEO.

As SICSA prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2024, Omer is heading up the development of a strategic plan designed to advance the mission and stabilize and grow the business.

“As we look forward to the next 50 years, we have to figure out a way to humanize animal welfare,” Omer said. “We want to help pet parents who are struggling to pay for food, housing or other needs so we can guarantee the pet won’t suffer.”

Omer also has a plan to pay off the mortgage on SICSA’s new building and is working to discover alternative streams of revenue.

“For me the ability to serve any population – human or otherwise – that cannot ever repay you – is humbling,” Omer said. “We are doing something really good for creatures that don’t have a voice. This is fulfilling in a way I was not prepared for and wasn’t expecting.”

For more information on SISCA, visit sicsa.org

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