Comhar Partners Recruits CEO for Embrace Living Communities

April 29, 2020 – Chicago-based executive recruitment firm Comhar Partners has placed Ralph Gaines as the new chief executive officer of Embrace Living Communities, an Oak Brook, IL-based non-profit which owns and operates housing communities for seniors and people with special housing needs in Illinois, Missouri and Florida. Managing director James O’Malley along with Bernard Layton and Nick Layton led the assignment for the search firm.

“We are thrilled to have an outstanding leader like Ralph join our talented team of professionals to lead the direction of our organization,” said Scott Meyer, chair of Embrace Living’s board of directors and an executive with Willis Towers Watson. “The board and I are confident in his abilities and are excited about the bright future of Embrace Living Communities.”


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Mr. Gaines has more than 30 years of private sector business experience leading both large and small company cultures. Most recently, he was chief operating officer for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In that role, he was responsible for bringing business solutions to the department’s strategic planning initiatives and bridging public and private investment to build sustainable communities of opportunity and social awareness. Prior to that, Mr. Gaines was president and CEO of BeBetter Health, a national population health management company.

In his new role, Mr. Gaines will be responsible for the effective and successful management of the portfolio of senior living communities and setting the strategic direction of the organization. “I’m excited for the opportunity to lead such an outstanding team of mission driven employees whose important work enhances affordable senior living communities,” he said.

Since 1895, Embrace Living Communities, formerly known as Consecra Housing Network, has developed and managed quality affordable living communities for seniors and persons with physical and mental challenges. The organization owns and operates more than 35 housing communities, which serve over 3,000 residents. Embrace focuses on providing a safe, affordable and welcoming environment where anyone can live an active and dignified life as they age. Embrace is a member of the Council for Health and Human Service Ministry, an association of health and human service organizations and programs recognized as an expression of the ministry and mission of the United Church of Christ.

Comhar Partners, led by former Stanton Chase executives, was formed to focus on providing recruiting solutions in consumer products and services, education and non-profit, financial services, healthcare and life science, industrial, private equity, professional services and technology industries. Besides its Chicago headquarters, the firm has specialized recruiting consultants based in seven offices across the country, including New York City, San Francisco, Denver, Atlanta, South Florida and Mid-Atlantic, with additional offices to be announced in 2020.

Respected Recruiters

Mr. O’Malley co-founded Comhar Partners with Bernard Layton in October. Mr. O’Malley previously served as managing director of the Chicago office of Stanton Chase. His role centered around senior-level searches for the professional services and financial services practice groups in Chicago.

For more than 25 years, Mr. O’Malley has developed talent acquisition solutions to help leadership talent align with changing business needs. Before Stanton Chase, he was a partner and executive search practice leader at TalentRISE, a recruitment solutions firm in Chicago. Prior to that, he was senior vice president in the human resource function of Fifth Third Bancorp. Mr. O’Malley has also worked for several professional service firms, including Arthur Andersen, Deloitte, Huron Consulting and Lante.

Bernard Layton, managing director, has over 30 years of mid-level and senior-level executive search experience within the consumer products, packaged goods and industrial products industries. Previously, he built and led the Chicago office of Stanton Chase. He performed over 2,200 searches spanning a wide range of senior and mid-management positions such as presidents, CEOs, partner, chief information security officer and senior vice presidents across a number of industries, with particular expertise in engineering, information technology/information security, construction, management consulting, consumer products, industrial and financial services.

Nick Layton has over 10 years of mid-level and senior-level executive search and professional recruiting experience within the industrial and engineering, consumer products, hospitality, technology, and automotive industries. Previous to Comhar Partners, he was a director at Stanton Chase International joining as a data research intern in 2009 where he played a role in over 100 searches. Prior to working at Stanton Chase, Mr. Layton was with Peoplenext.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor  – Hunt Scanlon Media

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