Guardian Angel CEO Kutlesa dedicates her life to improving those of others throughout Will County
Guardian Angel Community Services CEO Ines Kutlesa will be celebrating her 20th year with the organization in September.
“Working with amazing people in a wonderful community to help others has been the most rewarding,” Kutlesa told Will County Gazette. “Being a part of Guardian Angel’s history has been an honor, and witnessing the strength of the human spirit to persevere, despite the odds, has been remarkable.”
Guardian Angel Community Services, founded in 1897, is the oldest social service organization in Will County. Kutlesa began working there as a program supervisor of the groundwork domestic violence program in 1999. Since then she has served in many roles including director of groundwork; director of community based programs; director of clinical services quality assurance, training and child welfare; senior program director; and COO. She was appointed CEO in 2012.
“Many have left their mark on Guardian Angel’s history, changing and saving lives, which continues to be our vision in present day,” Kutlesa said. “Some causes withstand the test of time, as Guardian Angel has, serving as the beacon of hope for individuals, children and families experiencing the most dire of circumstances, in their darkest hour. Our mission to empower people to improve the quality of their lives is enacted every day through our strong belief in advocacy for peace and justice, and the inalienable human right to live safely, free from violence, oppression and abuse. These values are at the heart of all we do.”
Last year, Guardian Angels reached over 60,000 people through its programs, prevention education and community outreach efforts. Its goal is to help as many people as possible through its seven core programs that consist of parenting classes for the prevention of child abuse and neglect, comprehensive services for individuals and families impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault and rape crisis services, adult protective services, providing safe and nurturing foster homes for children, support and education for the development of healthy relationships, and transitional housing for domestic violence survivors.
“My wonderful colleagues at Guardian Angel, our Board of Directors, volunteers and supporters, and all of the other fantastic United Way Partner Agencies, city officials, Illinois State Representatives and Senators, along with the hundreds of others we network with, have changed the community,” Kutlesa said. “We are only as strong as the sum of our parts, and we all depend on each other to continue to do whatever we can to help those most in need.”
Guardian Angel has achieved much success including expanding its services by over 70 percent over the last six years, increasing its domestic violence emergency shelter capacity by 50 percent, and receiving a certificate of recognition from the Illinois House of Representatives for “Service to the Community, Demonstrated Community Leadership & Service to Significantly Improve the Quality of Life for Citizens in the Greater Will County Area.” Kutlesa has also led Guardian Angel to COA Reaccreditation.
“I am so proud we were recognized by COA as having met best practice standards and the highest level of excellence in our service delivery,” Kutlesa said. “We hope to continue this trajectory of success by being there for those who need us most.”
Kutlesa currently serves on the Colorado State University Global Campus Social Sciences Program Advisory Board, Joliet Chamber of Commerce: Council for Working Women, and Natalie Manley’s Women’s Legislative Advisory Committee. She is a member of the Rotary Club of Joliet, Witches Night Out Committee, Joliet Partnership Owners & Managers Committee, Kiwanis Club of Joliet, Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, United Way of Will County Pillar Society, University of St. Francis Social-Work Club, and University of St. Francis Phi Alpha Honor Society.
Kutlesa most recently was appointed to Governor JB Pritzker’s Illinois Council on Women and Girls, which will advise the governor and the General Assembly on policy issues impacting women and girls across the state.
“I am very honored to serve on the Governor’s Council,” Kutlesa said. “Every step we take toward equality in all life domains that impact women and girls across the State of Illinois is a step in the right direction.”
Kutlesa is a first-generation Croatian-American who was born in Naperville and currently lives in Romeoville with her husband Ivan, president and owner of Kutlesa Hernandez-Architects, Inc. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in clinical psychology. Prior to joining Guardian Angel, during the Croatian and Bosnian war of independence in the late 1990’s, Kutlesa participated on an international study led by a team of renowned physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, clinicians and others from the University of Illinois at Chicago. The area of study was on Genocide, Psychiatry and Witnessing, researching the traumatic impact of violence on civilian survivors of war.
In her spare time, Kutlesa loves traveling around the United States and overseas to Croatia to spend time with family and friends. She also enjoys the theater and the arts, and is an avid tennis fan.