Leadership requires courage and vulnerability. It means saying truths when people only want to hear the fluff. It means being able to see the big picture and having the courage to try and fill in the details. Guys, non-profit work is HARD and many come and go because they don’t have what it takes. And by “what it takes” I mean no solid funding, not enough support, not enough people, not realizing the amount of time and effort it takes to keep something afloat. I’ve sat at tables with CEO’s of large nonprofits that were trying to figure out how to reduce their salaries so they don’t have to fire an employee. I’ve sat at tables with the smallest nonprofits whose organizers continually spend their own money to do the work they want to do in their communities. It doesn’t mean the work isn’t important but it does mean that a lot of people don’t see taking care of others as a priority.
Getting to the heart of this letter, I am writing this to announce that I am moving out of state. There are new opportunities (and lots of hiking) waiting for me in Tennessee and my family and I are excited about the possibilities. After spending the summer at an art school in Western North Carolina I felt a pull toward that area. I got back to Florida and found myself longing for access to hiking, mountain views, fall colors, crystal clear flowing rivers and cooler temperatures. I also discovered new opportunities as an artist that I longed to explore and challenge myself with.
Founders don’t stick around and if they do they shouldn’t. Founders aren’t the CEO’s! It’s rare when Founders turn into long time CEO’s. This can actually stifle growth in many ways. It’s unhealthy when the life of an organization depends on the communities relationship with one person, although it’s okay to love that person. You can see this happening when the long time CEO leaves, the new one comes in and everything just combusts and in turn becomes unstable.
I’m not going to lie, this is one of the toughest letters I’ve ever had to write. Jacksonville has been my home for the last ten years and the past five years I’ve felt more support than I ever have in my life. Within this space, I’ve encountered many challenges-both personal and professional-and I’ve also experienced immeasurable hope and joy.
As I move on I am proud to say I leave this award-winning program in the capable hands of Rachel Potts. Rachel has been with me since the very beginning. Something about art and healing resonated with her. Not only does she lead support groups with ISM but she also volunteers for two other mental health agencies in Jacksonville. She’s attended a countless number of events, she has raised money for ISM and she’s been a non-judgmental shoulder for me to lean on when I’ve become overwhelmed or when I needed someone to complain to. I trust Rachel 100% and I have nothing but confidence in her abilities. She is thoughtful, creative and dedicated. She has overcome many obstacles to get where she is today and that is exactly what ISM needs in a leader!
There is still a huge need for this work in our community. I know as you read this you’ve just nodded your head or maybe you even said “mmhmm” to yourself. Either way I’m willing to bet you agree. Unfortunately, however, with the lack of funding and support of mental health, it is obvious that Florida still has a long way to go. It is through smaller organizations like ours that we are able to fill in those gaps. It is because of those of you who donate, share information about, volunteer with, and support ISM in many other ways that we have been able to continue doing what we do. As the Founder of I Still Matter my one hope is that the organization continues to, not only grow, but thrive.
I pray you all continue to support one another through one on one encouragement, volunteering, finding ways to bridge gaps by attending groups and community events. I pray you all are able to set your differences aside in order to meet the needs of those who are suffering. When you heal others, you heal yourself. I leave you with this quote:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” -Margaret Mead
It starts with you.