Penquis CEO Receives National Award  

by | Jul 25, 2023

Kara Hay Recipient of National Lyndon Baines Johnson Leadership Award

Bangor ME – July 25, 2023 – Penquis President and CEO Kara Hay was recently awarded the National Lyndon Baines Johnson Leadership Award by the National Community Action Partnership (NCAP). This award recognizes Community Action practitioners whose expertise on what works to promote greater economic opportunity for children and families is known and respected at the national, state, and local level.

Based in Bangor, Maine, Penquis serves up to 5,000 people on any given day and more than 30,000 Maine residents each year. Penquis CEO since 2014, Hay has worked tirelessly to help Maine people be safe, healthy, connected, and financially secure. Penquis focuses its efforts on increasing economic security through more than 75 programs that promote affordable housing, financial stability, reliable transportation, school readiness and healthy lives.

Hay was nominated by Mark Leonard, chair of the Penquis Board of Directors, who describes her as a “fierce advocate and exceptional leader.” He noted her multi-faceted approach to supporting the community, writing, “[I]t has been my privilege to work with Kara…her advocacy has helped garner funding for such critical needs as housing, heating assistance, assisted living services, community schools, substance use disorder treatment and support, and anti-poverty programs.”

Hay, who has been recognized by the National NeighborWorks Association with an Emerging Leader award in 2017 and a Practitioner of the Year award in 2019, has continued to guide Penquis’ innovative support of the community, notably in housing development. She recently presented at several national stakeholder meetings, providing an overview of BioHome3D, a collaborative project with the University of Maine and MaineHousing to establish the world’s first 100% bio-based 3D-printed home and neighborhood. This initiative aims to provide an affordable and sustainable solution to Maine’s housing crisis.

Daniel Brennan, Director of MaineHousing, calls Hay a “consummate leader” who “stands out among her peers in other Community Action Agencies with her wisdom, passion and strong advocacy.” He says, “[Hay’s] agency is one of the few developing multifamily housing in the region and Penquis serves thousands of families in need of heating and weatherization assistance.”

Hay is “a true visionary in the field of community action, and her commitment to improving the lives of Maine’s low-income population is truly inspiring,” says Robyn Merrill, Executive Director of Maine Equal Justice. Merill adds that, in addition to her work leading Penquis, Hay’s dedication to Maine communities shows through her work in support of other organizations. “From her work with the Bangor-area Community Health Leadership Board to her role as a member of the Northern Light Acadia Hospital Board of Trustees, Kara has demonstrated a deep commitment to creating positive change.”

This sentiment was echoed by Lou Tisler, Executive Director of the National NeighborWorks Association, who wrote, “Often sought for her energy and innovative approach, Ms. Hay has demonstrated leadership on every stage, from the town council meeting to Capitol Hill.”

Senator Susan Collins and Senator Angus King praised Hay’s efforts and her selection for the award.

“I extend my wholehearted congratulations to Kara Hay on her well-deserved recognition in receiving the National Lyndon Baines Johnson Leadership Award from the National Community Action Partnership,” said Senator Collins. “Kara’s unwavering commitment to Maine has been instrumental in driving Penquis’ efforts, to alleviate poverty and strengthen communities across the state. Under her leadership, Penquis continues to make a difference in promoting economic opportunity, and I commend Kara for her invaluable work.”

“Maine has always been one small town with very long roads; where neighbors look out for neighbors in times of need,” said Senator King.“Kara Hay has truly embodied the Maine community spirit in her nearly ten years as Penquis CEO. Thousands of families across our state are better off because of her dedication, passion, and vision. I’m proud to know Kara and glad she has received this well-deserved national recognition.”

NCAP CEO Denise Harlow, CCAP, states that Hay is “the personification of this award,” which honors practitioners who “have led their Community Action Agency in connecting a significant number of children and families to greater opportunity, transforming their lives and making their communities a better place to live.”

Hay is appreciative of the award. “I am deeply thankful to have been selected for this award and also for the recognition that it brings to Penquis, highlighting this amazing organization and the vital work we accomplish. We feel incredibly honored,” she says. “I hope this remarkable recognition allows us to garner more support for the Mainers who still need our help.”

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ABOUT PENQUIS: Established in 1967, Penquis is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to supporting Maine families in becoming healthy, safe, connected, and financially secure. Penquis primarily serves individuals with low to moderate income in Penobscot, Piscataquis, and Knox counties, with several programs extending Penquis’ reach across the state. Penquis increases the economic security of Maine residents through a diverse array of programs that promote affordable housing, financial stability, reliable transportation, school readiness and healthy lives. Penquis touches the lives of approximately 5,000 people on any given day and more than 30,000 Maine residents each year.