Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation awards sabbaticals to North Carolina’s nonprofit leaders

Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation Sabbatical Retreat portraits in Durham, NC Friday, April 13, 2018. (Justin Cook)

Celeste Collins, executive director of OnTrack Financial Education & Counseling in Asheville, is one of the recipients.

Press release from Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation:

Winston-Salem, NC (April 26, 2018) – The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation (ZSR) is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2018 Sabbatical Program.

Since 1990, the Foundation has honored North Carolina’s nonprofit leaders for their dedicated service and commitment to the sector by awarding sabbaticals. Up to five sabbaticals, which had previously been offered annually until 2016, are now offered every other year.

Established as one of the first of its kind, ZSR’s Sabbatical Program is intended to provide veteran nonprofit leaders with an extended break from work that allows time to focus on their personal needs, growth and self-revitalization so that they can return to their organizations with a rejuvenated spirit and renewed sense of focus. Recipients are encouraged to spend three to six months engaging in activities that interest them and that are unrelated to their field of work. Since the program’s inception, the Foundation has invested $3 million in the Sabbatical Program and made awards to 144 nonprofit leaders.

“It is such an inspiration to learn about the incredible commitment of nonprofit leaders who are dedicated to improving the quality of life of the people and communities they serve across North Carolina,” said Jane Patterson, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation trustee and chair of the Sabbatical committee. “This program is not only intended to ensure that we retain strong leadership within the nonprofit sector across the state, but also provides these leaders with what they need to come back refreshed and ready to work on behalf of the residents of our state.”

“The most creative and inspiring leaders in the nonprofit sector are extremely committed to the work they do,” said Maurice “Mo” Green, executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. “However, because of this selfless dedication, they can reach a point of burnout, where they have completely expended their personal energy. An extended break from their work allows them time to re-energize and hopefully return to their organizations with fresh ideas and newfound momentum. This makes the sabbatical not only beneficial to the recipient, but also to the staff, board and communities they are working alongside.”

This year’s recipients are:

  • Michael Gullatte, executive director of Cleveland County Rescue Mission (Shelby, NC)
  • Deanne Gerdes, executive director of Rape Crisis Volunteers of Cumberland County (Fayetteville, NC)
  • Amy Lytle, executive director of HandsOn Northwest North Carolina (Winston-Salem, NC)
  • Celeste Collins, executive director of OnTrack Financial Education & Counseling (Asheville, NC)
  • Juvencio Rocha-Peralta, executive director of Association of Mexicans in North Carolina (AMEXCAN) (Greenville, NC)

Eligibility for a sabbatical is limited to individuals in paid, full-time executive level positions with a North Carolina based nonprofit, who have served in their organizations for at least three years (two of which are in an executive level position). Preference is given to individuals with at least five years of experience with their organization. This program is not intended for public school, college, university or government employees, hospital administrators and full-time clergy. In 2016, the Foundation increased financial support to assist organizations with planning and transition expenses, making it easier for individuals of organizations to apply. Also, sabbaticals, which had previously been offered annually, are now offered bi-annually. 2019 will be the next year leaders can apply with sabbaticals being awarded in 2020.

Profiles of the 2018 recipients are below:

Described by one colleague as a “pillar of the community,” for the past eight years, Michael Gullatte has served as executive director of Cleveland County Rescue Mission – a faith-based organization that provides shelter, recovery programs, and 24/7 supportive services to homeless men, women and children. Some of Michael’s work responsibilities include, but are not limited to: overseeing ministry department heads to ensure the consistency of responsibilities within campus facilities as well as between departments and the Board. Some of his other tasks include facilities operations, marketing, fundraising, client ministry, and program curriculum and implementation. In its last fiscal year, the Rescue Mission served more than 350 individuals, provided over 11,000 nights of shelter, and served more than 34,000 meals. Nearly 40 percent of its residents transitioned out of one of its programs and into independent living. Michael has worked in the North Carolina nonprofit sector for 16 years.

Deanne Gerdes has served as executive director of the Rape Crisis Volunteers of Cumberland County for nine years. One of Deanne’s colleagues says she “has been fortunate to witness firsthand the innovation and relentlessness Deanne displays when fighting for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence” and that Deanne’s “focus allows her to negotiate some of the most challenging situations one could possibly conceive.” Deanne’s responsibilities include, but are not limited to: the oversight of day to day operations, programs and staff, grant writing and grant management, fiscal oversight of the agency, speaking on behalf of the agency and/or victims of sexual violence, reviewing cases with local law enforcement, providing direct services, answering crisis calls, accompanying victims to court or legal proceedings, and crisis management. Deanne has worked in the North Carolina nonprofit sector for 25 years.

Described by a colleague as “the most selfless executive director” she knows, Amy Lytle has been at the helm of HandsOn Northwest North Carolina (NWNC) for 10 years. HandsOn NWNC works with more than 400 local nonprofits to provide high-quality capacity-building services and engages between 4,000-5,000 volunteers a year in meaningful service across that network. Amy’s responsibilities include, but are not limited to: planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating the programs, services, budget, and marketing of HandsOn NWNC; overseeing all marketing and community engagement efforts; serving as the face of HandsOn in the wider community; and supporting the board and other volunteer leaders in their work. Amy has worked in the North Carolina nonprofit sector for 19 years.

Celeste Collins has worked with OnTrack Financial Education & Counseling for 24 years and served as executive director for 15 of those years. OnTrack helps people achieve their money and housing goals through financial education, counseling, and support so that they can overcome crises, afford their basic needs, improve their money management skills, and make financial choices rooted in their values. Some of Celeste’s responsibilities include, but are not limited to: working with board of directors, the leadership team and staff to develop and maintain the organization’s strategic direction, policies, practices, and resources; maintaining OnTrack’s relevance by listening to stakeholders to identify unmet community needs and developing programs to meet those needs through collective impact, existing collaborations, and new partnerships; creating a culture of excellence, client satisfaction, and continuous improvement; and ensuring policies & procedures that reflect up-to-date standards for legal, ethical, and effective service delivery. OnTrack’s programs help more than 9,000 people in Western NC each year. Celeste is described by a colleague as “a trusted advisor and friend to many,” who is “one of those rare individuals who sincerely loves her work, and is dedicated to the organization and community at large.” Celeste has worked in the North Carolina nonprofit sector for 24 years.

Juvencio Rocha-Peralta has served as executive director of Association of Mexicans in North Carolina (AMEXCAN) for 16 years. The mission of AMEXCAN is to promote the active participation of Mexicans and Latinos in their new communities and encourage the appreciation, understanding, and prosperity of the Mexican and Latino community through cultural, educational, leadership, health, and advocacy activities. Juvencio’s responsibilities include, but are not limited to: overseeing and guiding all programs, events, activities, and initiatives while remaining in line with the organization’s mission. One colleague has said, “AMEXCAN has served the community beyond its capacity for as long as I can remember and Juvencio Rocha-Peralta has completed inhuman feats and sacrifices in order to serve his community. Whenever someone comes to the organization in need, Juvencio always finds a way to meet that need, be it through direct counseling, being a liaison to a service provider or institutional system, being an advocate, or simply a show of support or solidarity.” Juvencio has worked in the North Carolina nonprofit sector for 30 years.

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