“Leadership is a gift. It is given by those who follow. You have to be worthy of it.” — General Mark Welsh
This is one of our favorite quotes cited by Rachel Bleecker, Assistant Executive Director for Residential Services at LSSNY.
During the coronavirus pandemic, she works in the office two to three days a week. Though she could complete the majority of her work from home, she chooses instead to set an example for her team.
“What kind of a leader would I be if I said, ‘Hey, you guys go in and I’ll be safe in my home?’ she asks. “I want to show them we’re in this together.”
Rachel has been with our agency for 13 years, promoted to her current position less than two years ago. She helps oversee our six residential sites, three of which are in Brooklyn and three in the Bronx. This includes a total of over 500 residents, all formerly homeless adults.
“You fill that basic need of giving them shelter and then you start working on everything else,” she says. Knowing that the residents are isolated and bored, Rachel and her team have gotten creative, sharing crossword puzzle books, mindfulness activities, and decks of cards for playing solitaire.
Rachel has become a master at getting PPE. Initially, she procured 25 boxes of masks and 18 boxes of gloves (she has since brought in more masks, gloves, coveralls, and face shields). Moving quickly, she located a respirator mask for each of her maintenance men. “On the day I scored Lysol — of all the accomplishments of my career — Lysol was making me proud!” she jokes.
Then she connected with a stranger through a mutual contact’s post on Facebook. Next thing she knew, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist Janelle LaCoille-Bucknor was offering to make masks for LSSNY’s residents. She handmade and shipped us 24 masks — 23 for the staff and one for a resident who is missing his outer ear, thus unable to use a traditional mask. “These situations typically bring out the best, and sometimes the worst, in people,” Rachel says. “I thought it was beautiful how someone we don’t even know went out of her way to try and keep us safe during these scary times.”
Rachel insists on honoring her team members, such as the maintenance staff who work seven days a week, sanitizing the buildings several times a day and the cook who shows up daily to make sure residents are fed on a grab-and-go basis.
“I am a firm believer that leaders are only as good as their teams. I am nothing without them. And I cannot be any agency’s unsung hero without giving accolades to the wonderful people who work with me,” she says.
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