Reflections from 10 Years at the Helm of Westhab

In my first ten years at Westhab, I had the opportunity to do many different things. It all started as a summer internship as a Westhab youth counselor while I was in college. When I graduated, I began operating programs for teenagers, then a whole youth department, and then youth programs at several sites. I was a case manager for families and a case manager for singles. I started getting my Masters Degree in Social Work Administration on Saturdays. During the week, I worked a morning internship as part of my degree at one Westhab program and then went to another Westhab site and worked into the evenings. Even when I was off duty, I’d be in a T-shirt and shorts, playing basketball with the kids from the shelter. Several years later, I led Westhab’s Youth and Family Division with a portfolio that included all the programs where I first learned the ropes. 

Throughout the experience, I felt so grateful that the Westhab community and the people we served allowed me into their lives. I had so much to learn and soaked up all I could. Getting to know residents and their stories, I got a crash course in social justice and the daily realities of poverty in a way I never could in a classroom. I was completely immersed and fell in love with the work and with Westhab.

Now, I’ve spent over twenty years at Westhab, and this month marks my tenth anniversary as President and CEO. It is an honor to live my dream job every day. Looking back at these past ten years, three main reflections stand out:

It’s all about the people: Westhab is now 1,200 employees strong — we were about 200 ten years ago — most of whom work on the frontlines doing the hard work every day. Our staff never ceased when the world shut down in 2020. We never missed a day, a shift, or an hour of delivering for our community. Our team shows up because they feel a calling to do this work and to deliver for our community. I am inspired and grateful to work alongside these incredible professionals, just as I was in 2001 when I walked into Westhab for the very first time.

Mission is the only compass: Every organization must clearly define its purpose and the impact or change it wants to make. Westhab has grown by leaps and bounds over the past ten years, but we have only narrowed our scope of services to do what we do best. For the things that don’t best match our mission and expertise, we have phenomenal partners who help us deliver for the communities we serve.

You gotta love it: I really love what I do. I know everyone does not get to say that. That doesn’t mean the work isn’t challenging and often frustrating. Sometimes we get a new contract or the financing we need for a development; sometimes, we don’t. Sometimes policy or bureaucracy stands in the way of progress. Regardless of the wins and losses, our team works together to solve tough problems and make one good decision at a time. Getting something done that we’ve been working on for a long time can be exhilarating, and it’s gratifying when a vision becomes a reality, like our Dayspring Campus in Yonkers. 

Westhab has continued to play a central role in working to end homelessness in Westchester County where we were founded. We’ve also spent the last eight years building a robust network of programs in New York City. We are developing beautiful, green buildings in Westchester and the City, and our services have evolved to best meet the needs of the over 10,000 people we serve each year.

So much more urgent work is needed to create a more equitable community where everyone can thrive. Westhab has been the vehicle that has allowed me to contribute, in my small way, to change. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve, still in love with the life-changing work we do every day at Westhab, and humbled by how far we still need to go.

Spread the word
Posted in News, Rich's Desk, Westhab Stories.