This is the second installment in our celebratory series: Leading through Change—40 years of Westhab.
Over and over when asked what I think makes Westhab so special, I find myself uttering the same word: kindness. My daughter’s kindness is what inspired me to join Westhab’s board of directors in the first place. I was working on a community development project in Israel and raving about all the benefits it would bring to the local community. One day, my daughter looked at me and asked why we weren’t doing the same work in our own community. So, I went to my friend, Bob Miller (Westhab’s then-president and CEO), and asked how I could contribute to Westhab’s mission. That’s when I first joined the board of directors. A decade later, I’ve watched Westhab adapt, grow, and thrive. All the while, I’ve witnessed extraordinary kindness on the Westhab team. The staff at Westhab are driven by kindness and compassion for those they serve. On top of that, they care for one another, making it a workplace full of passion and collaboration. It’s truly rare to come across an organization like this, and it’s an exciting thing to be a part of it. As we celebrate 40 years of Westhab, I’m so proud of all that’s been accomplished: all the lives changed, all the communities built, and all of the kindness at the core of each success.
Of course, you can’t run an organization on kindness alone. Westhab is also really good at what it does. Our partners like Westchester County, the City and State of New York, and our for-profit development partners come back to us again and again because we deliver. We show up and we do what we say we will. They trust us to do a good job. In my decade on Westhab’s board of directors, our operating budget has multiplied tenfold. Our staff has gone from around 100 people to over 700. All the while, the quality of work has only improved. We also have a fantastic leader. In 2012, we brought on the current president and CEO, Rich Nightingale—without a doubt the best decision we ever made as a board. When Bob Miller left, we faced a real turning point. We could have looked outside the organization for a seasoned CEO, but the answer was right under our noses. There was Rich, with such a passion for Westhab and so much talent—so much kindness too. It didn’t take a lot to convince the rest of the board that he deserved a chance. Rich brought an energy to Westhab that invigorated the whole operation.
In my time on the board of directors, I’ve been able to help strengthen the board’s committee system to attract more board members—from finance and fundraising to services and recruiting. We’ve created a deep bench and grown tremendously in expertise and talent. I’ve watched Westhab become an expert fundraiser by investing in talent. With the Dayspring Campaign, we raised over $5 million in the last few years, and more life-changing projects are being made possible all the time.
Some may say that kindness is not a real factor in the success of a nonprofit, but it truly is at the heart of Westhab’s accomplishments. We have the best team with the most motivation and a track record of success. We have talented people that work really hard, like each other, and are overwhelmingly kind. They throw themselves at their work and are dedicated to succeeding for the people we serve. They’re more than kind. They’re intent on helping people in the broadest of ways—on helping them not need us anymore. It’s like the old saying: give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. Westhab is designed to help people succeed on their own as much as possible. Westhab’s people make this happen every day, and it’s their kindness that drives them to do it.