Community Connections Inc. is one of the largest nonprofits in Southwest Colorado, both in terms of employees (averages more than 150) and budget (about $4.5 million per year.) Steering its course is no easy endeavor, especially in times of economic uncertainty, but newly appointed Executive Director Julie Dreyfuss is primed for the challenge.
Dreyfuss came to Community Connections in 2007 as the companys first development director. She soon displayed her leadership abilities in a variety of areas, and her position grew to director of Development, Communications and Special Projects, a position she held until her appointment as interim executive director in February 2011. Dreyfuss position as executive director was made permanent in May.
Before coming to Community Connections, Dreyfuss had a wide range of experiences around the globe. She has traveled to 25 countries and lived in five, including spending two years in the Peace Corps in Africa. Dreyfuss also worked in the art department at Mercury Payment Systems before returning to graduate school.
As Dreyfuss takes the helm, Community Connections is at a crucial point in its history where strong leadership and creative problem-solving are critical to sustaining its mission of providing opportunities for children and adults with developmental disabilities to lead healthy and fulfilling lives in our community. During the last two years, funding cuts at the state level have crippled the budgets for agencies across the state that provide services such as Community Connections.
This funding crisis is the biggest challenge Dreyfuss faces in her new position.
An adult with a developmental disability gets between $60 and $220 a day (depending on the severity of the disability) to pay for 24/7 staff, she said. Thats only about $2 to $10 an hour.
Ensuring the health and safety of adults with high supervision or medical needs is difficult at those levels of funding. To address the challenge, Dreyfuss seeks to continue the support the company receives from the local communities as well as working with state-level decision-makers to inform their funding priorities.
With the challenges come the rewards. As she enters her new position, Dreyfuss expresses her excitement about the opportunity to make a difference by attacking the important issues and working creatively to solve the problems faced by adults with cognitive impairments and families raising children with developmental delays and disabilities.
Dreyfuss already is succeeding in her efforts. Under her leadership, Community Connections significantly reduced the budget deficit for the fiscal year that ended June 30 and is starting the new fiscal year with a drafted budget that will be balanced. She also has implemented a new strategic-planning process to set the companys priorities and the direction for her leadership in the years to come.
I have worked all over the world, and I have never worked with so many dedicated, passionate and kind people both staff and clients, she said. I feel so fortunate to be here every day.
Tara Kiene is the director of case management with Community Connections Inc.