Julie Fay, who is credited with significantly expanding mental health and substance-use services to Islanders, is retiring after six years at the helm of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.
Fay’s retirement was announced Tuesday by the M.V. Community Services board of directors.
Fay, who is expected to step down before the summer of 2020, launched a $24 million capital campaign to rebuild the aging Oak Bluffs campus to serve more Islanders, making a deal with school officials for more land.
Fay announced her decision to staff Tuesday morning. The M.V. Community Services board has initiated a search committee, with the hopes of having a new executive director on board by the spring.
“I think it’s a confluence of many things,” Fay told The Times shortly after the announcement was made public. “Our organization and management team is at a good spot now. We’ve done a lot of growth. We’ve filled some service gaps. There’s a strong board, so things are good.”
Indeed, in Fay’s six years as executive director, there have been more programs added in early education, mental and behavioral health services, substance abuse treatment and recovery, and support for domestic and sexual violence survivors. “I’m so moved by the resiliency of our clients, the dedication of our staff, and the commitment of our Island community,” Fay said in the official announcement.
There is a more personal reason for her departure, as well. Her husband, Bill, retired, and they have two young granddaughters off-Island, ready to take up some of their free time. “It’s no secret to my staff that I’m enchanted by my granddaughters,” she said. “They have to look at photos and videos.”
During Fay’s tenure, M.V. Community Services has grown its revenue by 75 percent (from $5.2 million to $9 million annually) by securing more long-term state contracts, and added critical programs like the Island Wide Youth Collaborative and the Island Intervention Center (IIC). Both of these programs were designed and built in partnership with other Island nonprofits like Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard, and Martha’s Vineyard public schools. Most recently, M.V. Community Services collaborated with Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and the M.V. Substance Use Disorder Coalition to launch a new Recovery Support Center at the Red House. Doors will open for this important new program later this fall.
Paddy Moore, chair of Healthy Aging Martha’s Vineyard, told The Times she’s sad to see Fay go. She praised Fay’s problem-solving, her ability to explain funding for M.V. Community Services, and how she’s made the nonprofit bilingual whenever possible.
“She has made a terrific contribution to this Island. She’s improved the quality and expanded services,” Moore said. “I will miss her a lot, as a colleague and as a co-worker in a lot of different efforts.”
Dr. Charles Silberstein, medical director at M.V. Community Services, said Fay recruited him. “It has been an enormous pleasure to be on her team. She and her husband Bill know the mental health system in Massachusetts inside and out. But more importantly for me, she infuses Community Services with a spirit of kindness, creativity, and respect that spreads to all of us who work there, and to our clients. I am so glad that she will be there through the transition and remain a part of our Island community. Nonetheless, she will be sorely missed when she is no longer our leader at IIC and MVCS.”
Martha’s Vineyard Hospital president and CEO Denise Schepici shared similar sentiments. “Julie has been an important ally in the efforts to help improve the health and quality of life for our community,” Schepici wrote in an email. “We are all grateful for the programs she and her team championed to make the lives of Islanders better. We wish her all the best in her retirement.”
Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee praised Fay for the positive relationship between Island departments and Community Services. “When I first arrived to the Island, Julie sought me out as a new police chief, and educated me as to all the assets and resources that M.V. Community Services has to offer,” McNamee said. “I soon learned of the pivotal role that M.V. Community Services plays in matters involving domestic violence, sexual assaults, and addiction issues. I can honestly say that it is through her leadership that such a healthy relationship exists between the Island police departments and social services.”
As part of the $24 million capital campaign, $7 million has already been raised, and construction of an Early Education and Care Center at the Oak Bluffs campus is starting next month. Fay said she’s looking forward to watching that “rise up from the ground” during her final months at M.V. Community Services.
Oak Bluffs selectman Brian Packish said he’s worked with Fay as a planning board member and as a selectman. “Julie’s a valuable asset to our community across the board,” Packish said. “It’ll certainly be a loss, and they’re tough shoes to fill.”
Bob Egerton, president of the board of directors, said in a press release that M.V. Community Services is in a strong financial position, and has extended its reach to address pressing social and behavioral problems affecting the Island. “And much of that has to do with the leadership Julie has provided over the past six years. The Community Services of today is a true collaborator and partner in problem-solving from early education and care to recovery support to senior services. We are grateful that Julie’s tenure ensures a thoughtful, deliberative search to find the next leader who will usher in a new campus, enabling us to better serve our clients and reach even more Islanders in need,” Egerton said.
M.V. Community Services employs more than 110 staff, and delivers a wide array of programs and services, including behavioral health and substance abuse treatment; early childhood programs, including Head Start, daycare, and family support; sexual and domestic violence education and counseling; and programs for the disabled, elders, and veterans. The organization also runs the Chicken Alley Thrift Shop in Vineyard Haven.
Fay and her husband built a home in Vineyard Haven, and plan to stay in the community. She’ll remain active, just not as involved as she has been for the past six years.
She had this piece of advice for whoever takes her place. “Buckle your seatbelt,” she said. “It’s interesting. The Island is just a wonderful physical environment — a beautiful series of communities. It’s difficult to be the only social service agency on an Island; it’s like operating in a fishbowl. The Island has a really good heart, especially when it comes to capital campaigns.”