It is with mixed emotions that I share the news that Eric Harris, our Executive Director, has decided to retire from his role at Family & Community Services of Somerset County. Eric has spent the past 35 years of his career at FCSSC, starting as an intern while he studied Social Work at Rutgers, eventually working his way up to Executive Director. While he will remain at FCSSC in a part time clinical role, it is still a time to reflect on his legacy to our agency, and to the community.
When Eric was asked in 1995 to become Executive Director, he did it the way he always does everything. He hesitantly said “yes”, but then put his entirety into the role. At that time, the agency was close to closing its doors due to major financial struggles. While the agency was able to keep the lights on, it was never a smooth sail even up to today. Non-profit work is a constant struggle to keep the lights on. With funding ups and downs, with changes in government policies and reimbursement, with the continued challenge to find the right staff and board members, Eric continually stayed focused on what truly matters, making sure those in Somerset County, who rely on FCSSC, were able to get the help that they needed.
As I reflect back on my years on the Board, and most recently, my years as Board President, I value the friendship that I have developed with Eric. He has taught me the importance of family, not only immediate family, but that of an extended family. Eric and his wonderful wife Carol, are the proud parents of three grown men, and have recently welcomed a new grandson into their lives. Eric has taught me that nothing is more important than family and that while occasionally life will throw you a curveball, “it is what it is”, you deal with it , and address it head on. He has also taught me that the people you work with are family as well. I have gotten to know many of the staff members at FCSSC, who have been hired, trained and mentored by Eric. They all have the passion for community, the drive to help and the dedication to others that has kept the lights on. That comes from the example that Eric has set every day.
As we have located a successor to Eric, we looked for someone who had the qualities that can continue to create a family culture at FCSSC. During the interview process, Eric had continually reminded us the importance of keeping the culture that he and his staff have created over the years. It is one where we strive to help our friends, neighbors and family members who need our help.
Eric’s last day as Executive Director will be September 9, 2016. He will remain at the agency part time as a clinician, continuing to give back to the community. Please help me congratulate Eric on this wonderful milestone in his family’s life.