Charlene Crusoe-Ingram, CEO of Meals On Wheels Atlanta (MOWA), was supposed to be retired. But then MOWA, where she served on the board, came calling when their executive director resigned unexpectedly. What was supposed to be a two-year stint has turned into six.
Under her leadership, the organization has expanded in both its reach and its vision. Always driven, Crusoe-Ingram is a North Mississippi native and grew up with involved parents who encouraged her curiosity, intelligence, and knack for problem-solving. She worked various jobs in different industries across the country before she was recruited to work for The Coca-Cola Company in 1988, where she held numerous leadership positions.
Over the years, she’s established herself as a mentor and leader in Atlanta’s business community. A straightforward visionary with heart, she admits she’s direct—maybe to a fault sometimes, she adds.
“I hate when women get accused of being aggressive or whatever those negative words are usually assigned to a woman,” she laughs. “I like to think that I’m precise and understood.”
Her guiding idea has always been to run MOWA like a business. To that end, she’s introduced fresh strategies to help the nonprofit grow culturally and financially; in fact, it’s expanded from providing about 150,000 meals per year to providing more than 600,000 meals annually. The total output of MOWA’s meal services increased by 48 percent in 2019 and again by 17 percent in 2020, and Crusoe-Ingram hopes to keep the growth trend going to help as many seniors as possible.
“We’re so close to putting this organization in a position to be able to feed seniors in Atlanta for the next 15 to 20 years,” she says, pointing to MOWA’s plans to open a new commercial kitchen, which will increase meals served to Atlanta seniors from 1,800 to 3,500 per day. “We’re not where we need to be, but we’re going to grow that,” she says. “That inspires me.”