VCS Executive Director Deborah Cary Murnionannounced her retirement as of December 31. One colleague described her as having provided “stellar leadership to VCS for 15 years.”
“This is a bitter sweet decision for me,” said Murnion on Tuesday. “VCS is a wonderful agency and it provides so many essential services to the community.”
Murnion, who is retiring to spend more time with her family, described her tenure with as a “fabulous experience” and spoke about the opportunity she had to play a role in the expansion of so many of its initiatives.
“I’m most proud of the fact VCS has a most concerned and considerate board of directors,” she said, adding they have taken on fundraising and fiduciary responsibilities.
The board allowed the agency to act when a need arose for a social action program or service.
“VCS sort of stands alone in Rockland County as the type of agency we are,” Murnion explained. “We provide the services in the community that no-one else is providing. There is no duplication of services.”
VCS is a family services agency with a broad umbrella of services to respond to gaps in the community. It has an anti-racist, social justice mission.
Murnion is leaving a legacy that currently includes 19 different programs. Services are introduced and removed depending upon need. The broad array of programs serves 1,500 to 1,600 people each year. Most of those receiving services from VCS are in Rockland County although there are some participants in Orange and Westchester counties.
All of VCS’ more than 200 counselors are volunteers whom Murnion said are essential to the organization.
Several of Murnion’s associates praised her commitment to the New City-based nonprofit agency.
“We hate to lose Deborah, but we are grateful for the time she has invested in the agency, and VCS is definitely stronger because of her excellent leadership,” said VCS Board of Directors President Wylene Branton Wood.
Assistant Executive Director Phyllis Frank described Murnion as someone who has the skills to support and honor staff and provide guidance when appropriate.
“She administered it (the agency) and taught me things about the creativity of administration,” said Frank. “I would call her a consummate administrator."
Murnion was new to VCS when Frank approached her in 1999 about organizing a event.
“To her credit she said, ‘Isn’t this what VCS is all about’,” recalled Frank.
Director of Clinical Services Dr. Gail Golden said Murnion has valued the idea of counseling throughout her 15 years as executive director.
“She really saw that as our mission to provide the counseling to people who couldn’t really afford it,” said Golden, adding the executive director really believed in what VCS was doing.
Murnion’s involvement extends throughout the agency and beyond.
“She has had an enormous supportive role and impact on the heart and soul of this agency,” said Frank, who has been with VCS since 1979. “Deborah has not only administered the agency but represented the agency in the most exemplary way possible.”
Golden noted that Murnion reached out to government officials and the area’s not-for-profit network.
“She really established a very effective network of people throughout the community,” said Golden.
Frank said a luncheon to honor Murnion is in the planning stages and will probably be held in late November. Work is also under way to establish a fund in her name.
The VCS Board of Directors, under Wood’s leadership, has established an Executive Search Committee to conduct a process of hiring a replacement. The Board hopes to fill the vacancy by January 2013.
VCS provides an array of services including child abuse prevention programs, services to older adults and their families, counseling for victims of domestic violence and training and educational programs to address issues of racism and other forms of oppression. It has a Foster Grandparents Program that puts eligible seniors in schools to tutor and mentor children. Its Kinship Care Program helps grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. The Gay Pride Initiative welcomes people of all backgrounds.
VCS, which started in 1970, recruits and trains lay volunteers to provide more than 85% of its services to the community. In 2011 the volunteer work force contributed approximately 75,000 hours of volunteer service.