In June of 2023, as I stepped into the role of interim director at Mission of Hope in New London, WI, I was fueled by a mixture of excitement and a strong desire to serve my community in a new capacity. This opportunity presented itself as a promising endeavor while we awaited the takeoff of Impact Wisconsin. I was immediately impressed by the dedication of the people at Mission of Hope and the potential of the facility to make a significant impact. The initial weeks were spent in observation, soaking in the operations and the spirit that animated the place. Little did I know, this venture was about to present challenges that would test every ounce of my resolve and ingenuity.

The turning point came starkly in my third week when I requested to “see the books.” What was revealed was a scenario all too familiar from my days in the automotive industry—an organization on the brink, with one payroll cycle left and a bleak financial outlook. This moment was both devastating and eye-opening, pushing me into a leadership challenge unlike any other. But amidst this financial turmoil, we discovered our most invaluable asset: Pat Toney. Pat, a long-standing board member and an embodiment of tenacity, became a cornerstone in the tumultuous journey ahead. Together, we embarked on a path filled with uncertainties, innovative strategies, and a blend of successes and failures, all aimed at salvaging and redirecting Mission of Hope.

The journey of transforming Mission of Hope was deeply intertwined with the principles of servant leadership, collaboration, sustainable development, local heroes leading, and living culture up—values that have always been at the heart of our mission. These values were not just abstract ideals but became the lifeblood of our strategy to navigate through the financial crisis and reposition Mission of Hope for sustainability and impact.

The geographical location of Mission of Hope posed its unique challenges, lying just outside the reach of counties actively engaged in Comprehensive Community Services (CCS) work and peer support. This situation, compounded by the aftereffects of COVID-19 and the current employment market challenges, painted a grim picture. However, under Pat’s guidance and the newly invigorated board’s support, we slowly turned the tide. Through a complete overhaul of the budget, corporate structure, and grant strategy, we began to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Today, Mission of Hope stands as a testament to resilience, community, and the transformative power of healing from addiction. With a full house of 14 clients, we witness daily the incredible impact of treating the individual and, by extension, the community. The support from grantmakers like the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, JJ Keller Family Foundation, Milt and Trudy Staskal, and many others has been pivotal in our journey back to stability.

This experience underscored the versatility and necessity of innovative leadership models, leading us to adopt a fractional CEO model. This approach allowed me to divide my time and efforts effectively among multiple organizations, ensuring that Mission of Hope not only survived but thrived. It also paved the way for developing our Operations Director, David, who is poised to continue the legacy of Mission of Hope as a beacon of hope and healing in rural Wisconsin.

Our mission—to create resilient and healthy communities through experience, advocacy, and evidence-based practices—has never been more relevant. Our vision is clear: to ensure that every individual in rural Wisconsin has access to mental health care and addiction recovery services to lead meaningful lives. The journey of Mission of Hope is a living testament to our core values, proving that when we treat the individual, we indeed treat the entire community.

Reflecting on this journey, I am filled with gratitude for the unwavering support of our board, staff, clients, and community partners. Despite the challenges, if given the chance to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. The journey with Mission of Hope has been a profound chapter in my life, reinforcing the belief that servant leadership, collaboration, and a commitment to sustainable development can indeed transform lives and communities. Together, we continue to forge ahead, making strides toward a future where every person can access the care they need to heal, thrive, and contribute to the vitality of our community.