Ruth Ellis Center moves forward with plans for '09

Transition team, board plans to hire new ED by May

by Jessica Carreras

YPSILANTI -

The Ruth Ellis Center, southeast Michigan's organization for LGBT homeless and troubled youth, has put a plan in place to move forward with a new executive director in 2009.

The center lost its last director, Grace McClelland, in October of last year. McClelland was immediately replaced by an interim executive director, Kevin Howley. Howley has run several other organizations during times of leadership transition, and was put in place, said Board Chair Bill Greene, to both keep the center running and to prepare them for new leadership.

"Kevin...is not looking for a long-term interest in the job," Greene explained of Howley. "His primary responsibility is to maintain the status quo of the organization, help identify areas of opportunity and we've engaged him to help us lay the groundwork for a sustainable business model for the center based on his background."

Unlike many local non-profit organizations, Greene said the Ruth Ellis Center is financially stable, and does not plan to make any cuts to programming this year. "In terms of overall financial health of the organization, we're doing well," he said.

The center received several federal grants last year that financially backed their general operations and their transitional living programming. They were also able to open a new computer center several months ago, due to outside funding.

This year, they plan to apply for another grant from Michigan's Arcus Foundation, which provides funding to local, national and international LGBT work, as well as preservation of the world's great apes.

However, Greene added that they are experiencing a drop in personal donations - which they're attempting to counter with appeals to past donors. "We are experiencing a slow down in the funds that are coming in due to the economic conditions, however we've attempted to contact persons who've donated time and money to the organization in the past to say that our needs are greater now than before," he said. "As such, if we can get them to give, we'd encourage them to give now more than ever before. If they've never given, now is the time to give."

Part of Howley's work is to prepare the sustainable business model to make sure that the center can survive any economic blows it receives. That model, said Greene, will lay the foundation for the skills they search for in a new permanent executive director.

"He (Howley) brings a wealth of knowledge," Greene explained. "So not only is he allowing us to gain this level of insight, he also, because of the role he's served in other organizations in an interim (executive director) position, gives us...some breathing room so we don't have to rush into hiring another executive director."

However, Greene and the rest of the Ruth Ellis board have put a timeline in place that they hope to adhere to which will result in a new director being hired by May of this year. February will begin with an identification of the skills necessary for the job, followed by an official job posting in March. After reviewing resumes in April, the team hopes to select a candidate in May and transition from Howley to the new director in June.

"That's the plan I've laid out and that's what I hope and am quite certain will happen," Greene concluded.

The search, added Greene, will be national, and will not give extra merit to candidates from the state of Michigan. "We want someone who brings the skill set needed to run an organization with the focus that we have," he said. "If it's someone local, fine. If it's someone outside of the state, fine. We just want the best talented individual."

Until then, Greene maintains that the center is doing well and continuing to provide services such as outreach, counseling and transition help, without losing programming that helps Michigan's LGBT teens. "Overall, the state of the organization is good," he said. "We're moving forward. Kevin has done an outstanding job for us in the short period of time that he's been there."

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