In any not-for-profit agency, the executive leadership has two primary obligations. The first is to ensure that the work being done reflects the agency’s mission effectively. The second obligation is to ensure that the essential aspects of the mission continue to be possible.
Most of the time this second obligation takes the form of adequate fund-raising, administrative functionalism and appropriate staffing and delegation of duties. However, there is an aspect of the obligation which doesn’t come up often: How does the agency move forward when the current leadership is no longer in a position to continue in that role?
It is time to address that question with you.
For over three decades, my wife & I have loved and guided The Open Shelter through tumultuous times & transitions. We have believed that our primary obligation has been to stay behind with those who feel left behind. We have struggled to be an ally for those who are alone on our streets. We have tried, by example, to show our most vulnerable neighbors that they are loved, respected and cared about – equally to all others. We have tried to demonstrate God’s presence, responding to their needs.
I am almost 70 years old and, this August, my wife was freed from and concluded her two year struggle with brain cancer. While we continue to love and believe in the role of The Open Shelter, we are no longer in a position to continue in our executive leadership role.
While Mary’s battle with cancer intensified the transitioning process, she and I had been preparing for the need for a transition for almost five years. We began by recognizing that there were three possible ways to conclude our leadership role: 1) Admit that The Open Shelter was no longer necessary and prepare to close while trying to redirect the incredible impact and offerings of so many meal groups, volunteers and material assistance efforts. 2) Find an agency which is similar to The Open Shelter and negotiate a merger, transferring the volunteer involvement to that place and stipulating that Solomon Dean & Harry Yeprem are offered positions out of respect of their twenty years each of exceptional service on behalf of homeless & marginally housed persons. 3) Find a way to survive because The Open Shelter is genuinely unique & serves an essential role in the continuum of care on the streets of Columbus.
We talked to other service providers, board members, volunteers and guests. All of the feedback was that we have an important and unique role in this community’s continuum of care and need to preserve the style and commitment of our pastoral care emphasis and alliances-for-the-long-haul.
Having received the message that The Open Shelter needed to survive, we started to seek the people who would carry the agency into the future, providing both CHANGE & SAMENESS.
Just as we believe that God brought us to The Open Shelter, we also believe that Sheli Mathias was sent to us. She brings a faith, a spirit and an appreciation for the attitude and efforts of The Open Shelter which we believe can carry our work into the future.
I am not going away. But I am shifting more of the daily management of The Open Shelter to Sheli, who brings her unique gifts as offerings to our most vulnerable neighbors and can defend CHANGE & SAMENESS on this covered piece of the sidewalk.
With Undying Thanks,
Kent R. Beittel, Half of The Executive Team