As the last frayed calendar page is turned and the New Year approaches, I think we all naturally feel a bit of hopeful anticipation for a fresh start - the opportunity of a clean slate and new beginnings. The New Year inspires us to create or renew goals, pursue a passion, or implement a plan deferred for one reason or another.
Organizations, like people, sometimes need the promise a New Year brings – fresh energy to tackle the challenges, objective eyes with which to see needed changes, and untried methods to propel the mission forward to new levels – in our case, advancing the cause of affordable housing by empowering more families through homeownership and amplifying our voice in advocacy for the same.
During the final quarter of 2023, I realized it was time for me to “turn the page” personally, and in so doing, to help launch the next chapter of Pickens County Habitat’s growth. Both were accomplished by the bittersweet decision to retire on the last day of 2023, which incidentally, marked 18 full years of service to the organization, completed over two tenures. This decision, while hard fought over many sleepless nights, was prompted by the increasing needs of my elderly parents, my husband’s pending retirement, and the joyful arrival of our third grandchild. Life is short, and increasingly I want the time and freedom to spend it with family.
In addition to the demands of my personal life, in moments of brutal honesty, I recognized that it is simply time for Pickens County Habitat to have younger, smarter, more energetic leadership than I can offer. That’s not just okay, that’s great! It’s been comforting and exciting, after investing so much of my life in the affiliate, to work with Interim Executive Director Tamara Dourney, witnessing not only the passion, but also the unbounding energy and wisdom she brings to the very real challenges of increasing capacity, securing funding, and making affordable housing a matter continually in the forefront of conversations and action. The best years of Pickens County Habitat are yet to come, with more families than ever before realizing their dreams of affordable homeownership! That is reason to celebrate!
During my 18 years as Executive Director, my greatest joy and privilege has been the 67 partner families with whom I worked closely during their homeownership journeys. In numerous cases, I was blessed to follow those families over many years and see their children graduate from high school and/or college, to learn of new and better jobs secured, to witness community involvement, and the power of those in neighborhoods assisting each other through the daily challenges of life. Having played a small role in all this success has been an incredible honor.
I also owe a debt of gratitude to the many volunteers with whom I’ve interacted over the years – literally hundreds of men and women who have given their “time, talent, and treasure” to swing hammers, serve on committees, raise funds, mentor homeowners, and toil on our Board of Directors. There wouldn’t have been an organization for me to lead, had it not been for your selfless efforts on behalf of our neighbors needing safe, stable, and affordable housing. It was a blessing to serve alongside each of you.
All in all, it’s been a crazy, tough, funny, exciting, and successful 18-year ride! There have been some tears of frustration along the way, but there’s been more joy and satisfaction in the role I have been allowed to play. Over the next few months, I’m phasing out by working part-time, assisting Tamara in transitioning to the ED’s chair, and tying up a few loose ends on long-term projects. It’s a rewarding way to wind up my career – seeing the organization I love solidly positioned for a future of stronger service with a new leader of equal passion, but superior energy, goals, and plans. All is well, and I am grateful.
In Partnership Always,