June 03, 2024

Friends Austin Announces Exciting Leadership Transition

Welcoming Marilyn Manzo-Dawson as Executive Director and Celebrating Nancy Pollard's New Role with Friends of the Children Texas

Dear friends of Friends Austin,

On behalf of our Board of Directors, I am reaching out to our wonderful community of supporters and partners to let you know about an exciting transition. After co-founding and launching Friends Austin in 2017 and magnificently leading this organization, Nancy Pollard is transitioning into the full-time role of Executive Director of Friends of the Children Texas, as well as joining the Friends Austin Board of Directors.

With this transition, I am thrilled to also announce that Marilyn Manzo-Dawson is assuming the role of Executive Director of Friends Austin. She has served as our Program Director since the organization began and as Deputy Executive Director for the past eight months. Marilyn brings the expertise, skillsets, background and devotion to the mission to take Friends Austin to its next phase, and she has the unanimous confidence and enthusiasm of our Board as our next leader.

Friends Austin will be in incredibly capable hands under Marilyn’s leadership. She has seen every phase of our organization and developed the gold standard program among the national Friends network; new chapters come to Austin to learn from Marilyn. Before joining Friends Austin, Marilyn led a volunteer-based mentorship program and worked in the non-profit sector with a special focus on early childhood, adolescence and youth navigating the foster care system. Outside of Friends Austin, Marilyn has mentored a young woman for nine years and within Friends Austin for six years. Notably, Marilyn will be the first Executive Director in the Friends of the Children network to also serve a child as a Friend!

So what is Friends Texas? Friends Texas is a new entity formed earlier this year that exists to launch Friends of the Children chapters across our state and scale our proven model to more children who are facing the greatest challenges. No one is better suited than Nancy to lead the effort to bring Friends of the Children to new markets in Texas. I first met Nancy through Friends Austin Co-Founder Rachel Arnold when Nancy and Rachel were working with local families and individuals to raise the funds needed to bring Friends of the Children to Austin. Put simply, Nancy is a force for good in our community. Her passion, talents and persistence led her to not only raise the money needed to begin this organization, and create a dedicated community of supporters, but to build Friends Austin into the fourth largest and one of the highest-performing chapters within the national network. The expansion of Friends of the Children throughout the state will not only ensure more Friends for more children, but also expand the reach and brand of Friends Austin. Don’t mess with Friends Texas (or Nancy)!

Thank you, Nancy, for leading this organization through our start-up period and establishing an exceptionally strong foundation. I am honored to be a founding supporter of this uniquely impactful organization, to have served on the board as an officer since 2018, to have led as Board Chair for the past two years working closely with Nancy and Marilyn throughout that time. Friends Austin has experienced tremendous growth and success in its nearly seven years and Nancy and Marilyn have worked together to make that happen, along with our remarkably strong team and committed Board. I can’t wait to see what is next for Friends Austin and Friends Texas!


Ryan Atlas

Board Chair

Friends of the Children Austin