Michelle Kapreilian never thought her journey would take her into nonprofit, but she has never felt more at home.
Six years ago, Michelle Kapreilian and her husband, Eddie, sat their two daughters down for a talk.
Kapreilian was so excited to tell her girls that she had accepted the executive director position with Forty Carrots Family Center, a place her girls had grown up with and loved.
“I thought they were going to be happy, but they were perplexed,” Kapreilian says. “They said to me, ‘We don’t understand, we thought you already worked there.’”
In 2001, Kapreilian left her furniture importing business. It was a demanding career; the international business required phone calls at all hours of the day. When her first daughter, Ani, was born, she needed a change of pace to be a full-time mother.
So when the Kapreilian family moved from their home in Boston to be in Sarasota, Kapreilian needed an outlet to expend her energy and meet other moms. The name Forty Carrots was consistently coming up in conversation with other parents, so she decided to give the center a try and enrolled herself and Ani into the Partners in Play class.
“I assumed it was just a play class, and I thought it was going to be a good thing for us to do and meet people,” Kapreilian says. “I went for the first time and said, ‘Oh, this is a lot more than just a play class. There is something really good happening here.’”
It was that first class where Kapreilian met many of her lifelong friends and Forty Carrots family members. As her own family grew, so did her family at the center. She started volunteering more and more, her daughter continued to enroll in the classes. A year removed from her first class, the Kapreilians were expecting their second child.
When she was put on bed rest during the last three months of her second pregnancy, Forty Carrots was there to help. The preschool families took turns signing up to bring the Kapreilians dinners, have play dates with her daughter and do things Kapreilian wasn’t able to do herself.
It was this bond she created with Forty Carrots and the families there that now drives her as executive director.
“I think that my personal experience, being there and being a mom, experiencing things and seeing other parents and families struggles and how Forty Carrots is so unique in being able to connect to people — all people — that is such an overarching goal for me personally,” Kapreilian says.
While her two children went through the classes and preschools at Forty Carrots, Kapreilian volunteered in multiple positions at the center, including chairing the annual community speaker event, participating on multiple fundraising committees and sitting on the board.
Even with such glamorous fundraisers as Wine, Women & Shoes and the Firefly Gala, the Annual Free Community Speaker Event remains her favorite event the nonprofit hosts.
“It was such a good experience and also something that touched a big part of our community that I had never really seen,” Kapreilian says. “It really just cemented my belief in what Forty Carrot’s mission is and how it reaches families of all kinds.”
It’s a family affair for Kapreilian now — even though her children are no longer in Forty Carrots Family Center, her mom, Sandy Boyajian, volunteers her time doing whatever needs to be done. Her nephew went to Forty Carrots when Kapreilian’s brother moved to town. Forty Carrots has gone from a place for Kapreilian to take her children to a second home.
“I think the thing that is most important for people to remember is being open to opportunity when it comes, because you never know what form it will take,” Kapreilian says. “In an unexpected career move, I would have never in a million years thought that running a nonprofit would have been in my future.”
But expected or not, Kapreilian says her position at Forty Carrots is rewarding, surrounded by good people having a positive effect on the community.
“When you see a parent, particularly one that has had a lot of challenges, especially the parents who have grown up in poverty with trauma backgrounds and abusive relationships, when you see it — and you can see it in their face — that you can make a difference in the life of their child, and their child is not destined to the same upbringing that they had, it’s the most amazing experience in the world,” Kapreilian says.