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CEO Cindy Burton: 25 Years of Leadership & Service

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Cindy Burton knew the moment she stepped into the PathPoint office that she was on the right track and was meant to be in the nonprofit sector. “Being in a people-oriented organization with a clear mission to help was an exhilarating experience—a feeling that made it easy for me to decide to take the job and stay,” says Burton, President and CEO of PathPoint, a California-based nonprofit organization that provides services, programs, and opportunities for people with disabilities and disadvantages since 1964.

She didn't start at the top, of course. Burton, a UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) graduate with a degree in art history and a certified public accountant, answered an ad more than 25 years ago for an in-house accountant at what was then known as Work Training Programs (WTP), which led her to serve as its chief financial officer later on. Fast forward to 1994, Burton is appointed as its President and CEO, spearheading the name change to PathPoint in 2008. Known for her dedication, integrity and people-centered personality and work ethic, Burton is leading PathPoint to its 50th anniversary this year with plans to further the organization’s mission of helping people with disabilities and disadvantages become self-reliant and successful.

“One of my favorite things is to have someone I’ve never met come up to me and tell me how important PathPoint has been in the life of a family member or just someone they know, or when we find a job for a senior who has been living in his or her car,” says Burton. “Or, really, any of the many, many success stories in the lives of the people we support.”

Because more than 56 million Americans have some form of disability, Burton, whose sister suffers from intellectual disabilities, knows how important it is to help them achieve success. Working at PathPoint, Burton is instrumental in ensuring access to services, programs, and opportunities are available to more than 2,300 people each year in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles and Kern counties.

“I am passionate about finding creative ways to meet the needs of more and more people,” says Burton. “Whether that translates to opening new programs, tackling a new population segment or finding new, cost-effective ways to afford to do those things we know are important to people in need.”

A perfect example of this is a grant request Burton wrote to be funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which awarded PathPoint $500,000 to start a professional internship model—what is now known as the nationally-recognized “Project Search” model—for young adults with developmental disabilities. Once the grant was exhausted, Burton pushed for the program to be sustained by contracts with four of California’s regional centers that continued the positive employment outcomes PathPoint had achieved.

Burton is a results-driven executive in the nonprofit sector where approximately 73 percent of workers are women but men hold the vast majority of executive positions. But she is also a humble leader who would “always rather talk about PathPoint” than herself. She has a passion for helping others that has led to her involvement in multiple leadership positions in the California Disabilities Services Association, where she is currently the policy committee chair, and in statewide task forces, including the State Council on Developmental Disabilities Residential Options and the Department of Developmental Services System Reform.

As a long-time Santa Barbara resident, Burton spends and enjoys her free time outside PathPoint playing golf, making jewelry and puttering around the house with her boxer, Frank.