North Okanagan Youth and Family Services Society executive director Jan Shumay (right) retires after nearly 38 years with the organization. She’s handing things over to Dean Francks (left), NOYFSS’ business and fund development director. (Roger Knox/Morning Star)

Jan Shumay retires from North Okanagan agency

Dean Francks takes over as Vernon-based NOYFSS executive director

It’s the perfect time for an ending and a new beginning.

After a career that spans one month shy of 38 years, Jan Shumay is stepping down as executive director of North Okanagan Youth and Family Services Society (NOYFSS), and turning the reins of the agency over to director of business and fund development Dean Francks.

Shumay’s last day is Friday.

“Dean and I have always had a succession plan. We had goals when I brought Dean on as director of business and planning development,” said Shumay. “We had some real strategic goals around fixing our buildings and developing our profile in the community. We met all of our goals in our last strategic plan, and I didn’t want to start another strategic plan and leave it for someone else to finish. So it was the perfect opportunity to retire.”

Shumay began with the agency as a child and family counsellor in 1981, when NOYFSS was but a small office in a building by the National Hotel on 30th Avenue and 30th Street and known then as North Okanagan Youth Resources.

“There was one tiny office we reported to weekly. That’s how we found the kids that were missing. We’d just look out the window and we’d see them,” chuckled Shumay, who joined the agency from Venture Training. She reported once a week to the office but otherwise worked her entire caseload out of her car. The staff then totalled seven. Now, in the newly renovated office at 32nd Avenue and 31st Street has a staff of 104, including casual employees.

NOYFSS is a registered, non-profit, charitable organization that has been serving families of the North Okanagan since 1974. It provides counselling and support services to individuals and families in the community through a variety of community-based and residential programs.

“Our staff are our programs,” said Shumay. “They are what makes NOYFSS successful. It’s a very unique work environment. The staff is incredible, totally committed to their practice and to each other. That, to me, is what makes us so successful.”

NOYFSS also has strong partnerships and collaborations with all community agencies and organizations.

RELATED: Friends of NOYFSS attend Giving Back dinner

“We see us as a part of a collective, not working in isolation,” said Shumay. “We get a lot of work done. This is probably the most collaborative community I’ve ever experienced. I’ve sat on the board of the Federation for Community Social Services and I always come back appreciating that strength and collaboration we have in Vernon. I think we’re unique that way.”

Shumay laughed when asked how much her industry has changed in nearly four decades.

“A whole helluva lot,” she said emphatically. “We have really amazing standards now. The industry has grown and matured into really providing solid supports for families.”

Francks, who was born and raised in Vernon, returned home in 1995, joining NOYFSS as a child and family counsellor after a stint in the Lower Mainland with the Boys and Girls Club of Vancouver. He has served on NOYFSS’ board of directors before becoming a business and fund development director, a post he’s held for the past five years.

“In my last role, Jan and I worked very closely together, achieving a lot of things,” said Francks. “We’ve re-constructed and rebuilt two youth residential homes and we’ve completed the renovation and addition to our downtown office.”

Francks is nervous and excited about replacing Shumay.

“It’s a bit of both but I’m definitely looking forward to the opportunity,” he said. “Jan is leaving the agency in great shape. We’ve experienced a lot of growth in the last couple of years. We’ve added a residential program that’s brought in 16 additional staff members. I look to continue the path we’re on.

“Our agency plays a big role in this community and I’m looking forward to continuing to serve the North Okanagan.”

Shumay, who will do some travelling with her husband, Doug, in retirement, said she’ll miss the staff the most as she shows a reporter how her so-called Christmas elves got into her locked office, as they do every year, and hung Christmas decorations and snowflakes from roof to floor, desk to file cabinet.

RELATED: NOYFSS goes pink for anti-bullying day

“I’ll miss the people we serve and the staff. I love working in this community, love developing programs, but it’s the staff,” said Shumay. “All of our programs are a success in their own unique way. The success is right down to the person who works in it. The programs are just a name, it’s the people that are the programs.

“The reason it works so well is that we really operate as a team. Although I’ve had the role of leader it’s because we have a team effort. That’s what makes us successful. It’s a cast of characters. That’s what makes us unique and good at our work.”

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