The community center takes "a holistic approach to dealing with life challenges," Gordon says. For instance, the house offers not only emergency financial assistance to families in need, but also preschool programs, teen social groups, family counseling and GED classes.
Peggy Freidenberg, a member of William Byrd's board who led the search for a new director, says the selection committee sifted through about 150 resumés. "So we were pretty picky," she says. Freidenberg, who knew of Gordon's work at Homeward and got to know him personally as part of a Leadership Metro Richmond class, asked him to consider the job.
"We just wanted the best," she says. "Reggie is the best." The William Byrd Community House will be a challenge, she told him, because of the complexity of running its many programs. "We really do birth-to-death services," she says.
Gordon will have big shoes to fill. The house's previous, much beloved executive director, Jody McWilliams, recently retired after 33 years.
Gordon described his decision to move as bittersweet, because Homeward is only a year away from accomplishing its original five-year plan for "an effective, efficient, compassionate and flexible regional homeless services delivery system."
"It's really fun to do what people thought was impossible," Gordon says. Before Homeward was created in 1998, he says, the relationships between Richmond's homeless-serving nonprofits could best be described as "fractured and combative."
Now Homeward has fostered cooperation among the area's nonprofits, he says. "In retrospect, I think everyone was ready for change," Gordon says.
A commission is figuring out how to continue Homeward's mission, Gordon says. Its findings will be announced July 12. Melissa Scott Sinclair
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