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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Nonprofit Profile – Travelers Aid Society of San Diego

Name: Kathleen S. Baldwin

Title: president

Mission of organization: To assist individuals and families who, in times of crisis or transition, are disconnected from their support systems. We assist a broad range of individuals: From those truly in crisis who are living on the streets to visitors unfamiliar with the region.

Travelers Aid is an agency that’s small but has a long history in San Diego. It started locally in 1901 with the purpose of assisting and protecting women and children traveling alone who arrived in San Diego without any kind of support. Today, we help travelers of all kinds, with 300 volunteers at three locations, and with social service case managers located off-site (e.g., St. Vincent de Paul Village).

Travelers Aid does aid travelers; helping visitors to our region is a huge part of what we do. However, not all travelers have a destination, such as those seeking a better life or fleeing from a potential abuser. While Travelers Aid may be best known for our Visitor Services program, our assistance to San Diegans who are in crisis through our Social Services program is the heart and soul of what we do.

Telephone: 619-295-8393.

Web site: travelersaidsandiego.org.

Founded: 1901; incorporated in 1914.

Milestones: 2009 launch of SenioRide, a program that provides transportation options for low-income seniors; assisted 2 million visitors to our region during fiscal year ended June 30.

President: Kathleen S. Baldwin.

Annual income: $457,000.

Expense allocation: 87 percent program.

Corporate support: 13 percent program administration and fundraising.

Sampling of supporters: Sempra Energy Foundation, JetBlue Airways, city of San Diego, county of San Diego, San Diego Unified Port District, California Bank & Trust, Premier Inns, TJX Foundation, San Diego Lions Welfare Foundation, Yellow Cab of San Diego, San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, DAV Industries, Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, and the United Way of San Diego.

Board Chair: Brian Towle, JetBlue.

Board Members: Renee Bannasch, Betty Chapman, Caroline Lett, Frank McCully, Amy Rose Martel, Cary Nichols, Anthony Palmeri, Ky Reding, Maria Suggett, Jordan Williams, Carl Winston and Gary Zeugschmidt.

Employees: Seven.

Volunteers: 320.

Events: Springtime Soiree gourmet chef demonstrations, A Night in White wine tasting, and Help on the Move.

Wish List: Donations for silent auction fundraisers, certificates for stays in local hotels and motels, and food vouchers (emergency shelter for domestic violence victims and their children), gift cards to reward outstanding volunteer work, and a new phone system.


Recent Challenge: Figuring out how to pay for new homeland security badges for all of our cruise terminal volunteers; fundraising during an economic downturn.

Measures of Success: Our ability to meet the needs of a large number of social services clients with a small number of staff members and limited funding as well as surviving for 100 years.

Smartest Move: Recruiting a fantastic board that’s engaged, active and hands-on. Since our staff is so small, this makes a critical difference in our success.

Missed Opportunity: We are so disappointed each time we are turned down for funding, as that impacts the number of people we are able to help — and the need is ever-increasing.


Personal path to nonprofit work: Can only be described as serendipity. Thirty-three years ago, I was working in city government in Arizona and became dissatisfied. As I was about to quit, with nowhere to go, a friend suggested I apply for the executive position at a small nonprofit that served developmentally disabled children. The moment I walked through that door, it was love at first sight, and here I am doing the same job (different agency/different location) today.

Toughest aspect: Hearing the stories of domestic violence and the helplessness of victims is always difficult. Not being able to help all who ask is even tougher.

Most surprising aspect: How quickly someone can go from fully participating in life, with all its responsibilities and advantages, to becoming homeless and needing to rely on social services — it truly can happen to anyone.

Biggest pains: Fundraising for society’s less fortunate is challenging when not all populations generate sympathy from philanthropists. Being an agency that is still relatively unknown after 100 years.

Greatest pleasure: Being able to make a life or death difference in people’s lives.


Best recent moment: Learning that Travelers Aid won the contract to provide volunteer services at Lindbergh Field for the next five years.

Worst recent moment: Learning that a recent domestic violence client decided not to use our services, and worrying about what became of her.

Dream for another life: Helping people enjoy travel to Italy as much as I do.

Downtime: Regatta management and being on the water in any kind of boat, travel (especially to Italy), and photography.

Most like to meet: Golda Meir or Margaret Thatcher, both strong women who stepped up and did what had to be done, even when it wasn’t pleasant.

Nonprofit Profile is a recurring feature of the Business Journal. Send your candidates for profiles to Tom York at tyork@sdbj.com.


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