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Dear Friends of VYFS and the Vashon Community

I am writing to say farewell to a fantastic community and an agency that will always claim a piece of my heart. As you reported two weeks ago, I have resigned as Executive Director at Vashon Youth and Family Services. I have been fortunate enough to find a new opportunity that aligns with the needs of my family and will continue to allow me to use my talents to create a meaningful career.

I would like to take this moment to express my gratitude to the people of this wonderful community for nearly five years of the best job of my life so far. I have been honored to serve you. It has been a privilege beyond I could have imagined.

VYFS is a fantastic agency working in a community that has such amazing strengths. In the time I’ve been here, we have weathered challenges, grown, increased our professional skills, strengthened our ability to serve, and honed our vision so that we know where we want to go in the future.  The VYFS agency staff is made up of exceptional individuals, dedicated to the highest standards; every day they go above and beyond to deliver effective and compassionate services to young families, children, parents, and individuals on Vashon.

This community has supported us as we have grown. In particular, I want to recognize donors and supporters, many of whom do not want public recognition. I also want to recognize the agencies and organizations that are members of the Vashon Social Services Network. In my 20-some years of nonprofit work, I have never been part of a coalition that was, in fact, truly collaborative, as you all are.

Vashon is unique in many ways, but we are also face many common problems, including a lack of opportunity, growing addiction issues, and the increasing divide between wealth and middle/lower income households (and the significant challenges that creates). Yes, the particular way these issue play out in Vashon’s rural and isolated context is different, for sure, but I want to encourage VYFS and others to stay connected to the larger community around us to solve shared challenges. Remember, our elected advocates at the federal, state and county level can create better solutions if we work collaboratively outside of the Island as well. While we craft amazing local answers to our problems, do not be afraid of going over the moat to find allies.

Finally, I want to thank in particular the 20 or so folks who have sat on the Board of Directors while I have been here. I applaud your willingness to step up to the challenges of leading an important nonprofit in a small community. I thank you for helping us gain from every challenge or opportunity we’ve faced. And I cheer you on now, as I am confident the current Board is the best group of people I’ve met to lead the agency through this transition.

To you who have befriended me and are supporters of VYFS, I want to assure you that transitions happen. My decision is solely based on the needs of my family. Those of you who know me well know that I have an adult child with special needs who is in his own period of transition, and you are likely not surprised that I am making this move to support that situation.  I know it is genuinely more difficult to recruit and hire people to Island-based leadership roles. However, time and again while I have been at VYFS I have seen amazing people join VYFS and take other key positions on-Island.

Because of this, I am confident that the Board will find the right person to join you as VYFS starts its 5th decade of service to the Island. During the time of transition, I ask all Islanders to stand with the organization. Please don’t “wait and see what happens.” Jump in now to help keep VYFS going in the right direction. Keep enrolling your children, call or come in whenever you need help, keep volunteering, and please keep giving – in fact give more.

Forty years ago, a small group of committed Islanders came together to help young people find employment. Every step since then we’ve faced opportunities, challenges and transitions. And through it all VYFS grew because it stayed focused on its mission. I am excited to watch what happens next for Vashon and VYFS.

Kathleen Barry Johnson,