It's official. Eileen Longstreet is the new executive director for Social Services of Alexandria.
Longstreet took over the helm of Social Services approximately three weeks ago after her selection by the organization's search committee. However, her official confirmation occurred at Sept. 16's Board of Directors' meeting. She replaces Gwen Mullen, the last to officially serve in that role.
"We are extremely pleased that we were able to get her. She has a background in health care, non-profits and administration. We are very enthusiastic and looking for great things to happen," said Bill Harris, board president.
"As a member of the board's Executive Committee and the Search Committee that selected Eileen, we are very fortunate and excited to have Eileen to be our new executive director. She has the energy and experience. And, she brings to this organization the educated dedication that we have needed," Judy Drewry said.
As a businesswoman with ties to the health care industry, Longstreet acknowledged she has long desired to become part of the non-profit world to "give back" to the community. "Senior Services of Alexandria offers just the opportunity I have been searching for," she said.
"It gives me the opportunity to use my knowledge and skills to serve seniors, a group I enjoy serving and for whom I have enormous respect. My main interest has always been focused on seniors, women's issues and children," Longstreet said.
Born at George Washington Hospital, Longstreet's family moved to Tennessee when she was a child. That is where she graduated from high school and college.
She returned to the Washington area from Rochester, N.Y., where she owned and operated a health care marketing firm for 10 years. Longstreet originally moved to Rochester as an employee of an insurance firm specializing in health care.
"George Washington University contacted me in late 1998 to become part of a team from around the country assembled to turnaround their University Health Plan which was having financial problems. It was basically an HMO," Longstreet said.
"It was one of the first such plans in the nation having started in 1972. Fifteen months after the team took over it started showing a profit. By the end of 2000 it had a profit of $5.2 million," she said.
"Then the University decided to sell it. But, nobody offered to buy it so they shut it down. Basically, it was a managed care organization insuring and providing care to its members," Longstreet said.
"WHEN I HEARD about this opportunity through a friend, I immediately applied because it offered what I had been wanting to do for some time. I had 20 years marketing to seniors and in my teenage days I was a volunteer with the visiting nurse association. I truly enjoyed working with them and trying to help them," she said.
"Although, I've only been on the job for three weeks, I really love it. We have a very dedicated and knowledgeable staff. But, we need a lot," she said.
Those needs, as in most cases of the non-profit world, come down to two elements — money and personnel. "We need donations or grants and we need people who can volunteer on a committed basis. This is particularly critical to the Meals On Wheels Program," Longstreet said.
"We would love to have a whole cadre of trained volunteers who could be tapped for part-time work in both our transportation and office needs. For Meals On Wheels, what we would really like is to have people who would be willing to volunteer one day a week for two hours. Right now most volunteer one day a month for two hours," she said.
"The Meals On Wheels Program is critical to the elderly, not only from the food aspect but also from the social aspect. That visit per day is often the only time many of them get to interact with another human being. It's so important to their state of mind," she said.
But, programs aren't the only thing in need of monetary support. "Our entire infrastructure here at the office needs upgrading. The physical plant, the technology and the furniture. My goal is to have significantly improved this place in my first 12 months," Longstreet said.
In order to accomplish some of this she admitted she was pressing her husband Sam into service. "He is employed at the U.S. State Department but he's going to be working with me to fix up some of this physical plant," she said.
They have two grown children and six grandchildren. A 36-year-old daughter, Alexis, is a teacher in Phoenix, Ariz., and a 34-year-old son, Jason, is a restaurant manager in Memphis, Tenn.
Formed in 1968, Senior Services of Alexandria, located at 121 N. St. Asaph St., is a full-service non-profit community organization dedicated to helping seniors. It offers an array of programs for a diverse and aging population.
AS SENIOR CITIZENS Employment and Services, its original mission was to address age discrimination in employment. Today it offers programs in transportation, fuel assistance, emergency aid, information and referral, home care, and financial matters.
Senior Services receives support from Alexandria City government, Chamber of Commerce, United Way, area churches, private and foundation grants, membership donations, and individual contributors. Support also comes from its volunteer Board of Directors.
Its stated mission is: "To provide accessible, comprehensive and affordable services to seniors within the City of Alexandria and adjacent areas, and to promote the independence and self-sufficiency that enables seniors to age with dignity in their own community."
Longstreet said, "We are going to be reaching out to corporations and the community at-large for volunteers. And, we are also working through and with the Board to generate more revenue. We very much plan to be a player in the community."