Updated: Jun 29, 2021
With more than 200 San Diego Business Journal CEO of the Year nominations, Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) Executive Director Rachel L. Harris was named as a finalist for the nonprofit category. Harris has more than 30 years of experience serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and military veterans.
“It was amazing to be in a category with so many outstanding CEOs,” said Harris. “I truly appreciate the support I received and I am honored to have been a finalist.”
With a staff of nearly 400 serving more than 1,000 children and adults with I/DD, Harris leads through empowerment and inspiration. She encourages diversity and respects all cultures, beliefs and differences.
“We consider Rachel’s greatest talent to be her effortless ability to connect with staff and clients, as well as her genuine care and support in every decision and action she takes for us all,” said TMI Associate Executive Director Jessie Campbell. “Under her dynamic leadership, TMI is steadily growing and becoming one of the most innovative, cutting edge, progressive, and profitable organizations in the industry. She continues to expand TMI to ensure that individuals with disabilities have quality options for services now and for years to come.”
Harris is a true source of inspiration and motivation for work and volunteerism. She is driven by her faith, values and belief that each of us can make a difference. Harris believes that the biggest gift one can give in this world is the gift of servitude and that serving others unconditionally brings about true fulfillment and humility. She also believes that if each of us inspire, support and commit to providing assistance, we can change our community for the better and create resources that would otherwise disappear.
Additionally, under Harris’ leadership, TMI has successfully increased its revenue over the last three years: 7.4% (2017-2018), 10.3% (2018-2019) and 11.4% (2019-2020). Current TMI revenue is $19.3 million.
“Ms. Harris has led TMI through several steady years of service expansion and revenue growth while continuing to maintain TMI’s high quality of service,” said TMI Board Chair Bryan Shull. “Her phenomenal ability to lead while being able to empathize with each individual is absolutely amazing.”
Harris’ dedication to service is not only seen professionally, but also in the community. She has a genuine commitment to San Diego’s youth and gravitates toward opportunities to invest in their bright futures. Harris passionately assists her husband, Pastor Olando Harris of The Garden, Where New Life Begins (located in Chula Vista, CA), in many projects and programs including community giveaways, scholarship opportunities for graduating youth, raising donations for Children’s Hospital and foreign missions, providing holiday gifts for children, community health and fitness programs, delivering food to those in need, and much more. Additionally, she is Director of Operations for a nonprofit program affiliated with the church, called “Greater Love Ministries”, that provides transitional independent living housing for women trying to get out of homeless situations.
As a State Licensed Minister of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (P.A.W.) along with her Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Science and Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology, she has also given countless hours to individuals seeking counseling services. Harris also assists in leadership guidance, music ministry (singer and drummer), evangelistic outreach, marriage ministry and retreats, Christian education, and empowering and teaching women to recognize and embrace their value in life.
Harris sits on numerous boards and committees and is part of several community memberships that continuously advocate for the rights of individuals. She serves as a board member for the San Diego Regional Center Vendor Advisory Board (VAB), the California Disability Services Association (CDSA) and The Garden, Where New Life Begins Church. She also maintains agency memberships with Developmental Disability Provider Network (DDPN), American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR), Community Living Support Network (CLSN), Foster Family-Based Treatment Association (FFTA), and Independent Living Association (ILA). In addition, TMI is a member of seven chambers of commerce: Chula Vista, Corona, El Centro, Escondido, San Diego, San Diego East County, and Temecula.
“As we face new and unprecedented challenges brought on by COVID-19, Ms. Harris again has demonstrated her leadership and vision as TMI has quickly developed new and innovative ways to engage clients,” said California Disability Services Association Executive Director Barry Jardini. “Other CEOs might wilt under the weight of the challenge, but Ms. Harris stands tall and stands out among the crowd. Through it all, her commitment to TMI’s mission, clients, and her staff never waivers.”
Congratulations, Rachel, and thank you for all that you do for TMI and our community!
Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) has been transforming the lives of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities since 1981 and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing since 2000. In 2020, we launched Disabled Veteran Employment Services. TMI strives to help our clients to realize their hopes and dreams by providing Employment Solutions, Community Living and Family Support Services throughout San Diego, Riverside and Imperial Counties. To stay connected with us, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Together we can share acceptance and awareness, ultimately contributing to further inclusion.