Niel Siekerka, Chair of the Board of Directors of The Rescue Mission of Trenton, announced that, effective January 1, 2021, Barrett Young, who has been the Chief Operating Officer of The Mission since 2013, is being promoted to Chief Executive Officer. At the same time, Mary Gay Abbott-Young, who has been The Mission’s Chief Executive Officer since 1986 will become The Mission’s President.
“This is a perfect win-win for The Mission, connecting our noble past with the challenges of today and our vision for the future,” Niel said. “Between Mary Gay and Barrett, they share over six decades of experience with our organization – having led us through unprecedented challenges with the compassion, vibrancy and hope that is at the heart of The Mission.”
Niel added, “This transition is consistent with and will help streamline the implementation of the Three-Year Strategic Plan, which the Board has just authorized, ensuring that The Mission will continue to grow and change to meet the needs of those in our community who have nowhere else to turn.”
As the Chief Executive Officer, Barrett will be responsible for providing leadership for the organization, working with the Board of Directors and the Management Team, as well as overseeing all aspects of this very complex organization that last year served 71,992 warm meals; offered shelter to 1,018 individuals who were homeless; provided counseling and vocational development to, on average, 80 individuals in the residential behavioral health treatment program; and helped 153 previously homeless individuals enter permanent supportive housing.
As President, Mary Gay will focus on increasing The Mission’s public advocacy, as well as overseeing grants and funding, while leading key aspects of the organization’s strategic plan.
“We are very fortunate that Mary Gay has agreed to stay on with us in this new role,” said Niel. “Over the course of three-and-half decades, she has been at the helm of The Mission, expanding the organization’s ability to help those who have nowhere else to turn in five distinct, yet unified, and vital ways, including: The Shelter, The Behavioral Health Center, Vocational Development, Supportive Housing and The Thrift Store. Knowing that she will be readily available to provide insights and perspective, while also being able to focus on enhancing The Mission’s fundraising and other key strategic initiatives provides solid footing for our organization as we look to a new era.
He added, “Barrett is stepping into a role for which he has long prepared. The staff at The Mission – who keep the operation open 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week, every day of the year – look up to and respect Barrett because he knows whereof he speaks, having started at The Mission in 2003 as an emergency shelter associate, working from midnight until 8:00 am.”
While obtaining his Master’s Degree at the University of Pennsylvania, Barrett also became the co-founder of the Penn Restorative Entrepreneurship Program – a one-of-a-kind, partnership between The Mission and the University – which offers an intensive training program led by Penn faculty and students to a small group of formerly incarcerated individuals, with the goal of helping them start and succeed in running their own business. One of the graduates of the program, who slept under a bridge before coming to The Mission, now owns his own auto repair business and just hired his first employee, who is also a recovering addict.
“While Barrett’s ability to inspire The Mission’s staff has helped to create innovative solutions, improve the lives of many of our clients, expand the organization’s capabilities, and create cost-effective measures, the true mettle of his leadership ability was challenged like never before by the pandemic,” Niel said.
Mary Gay added, “Rising to the challenges presented by the pandemic, I believe, is where Barrett’s leadership abilities rose to a new level.”
What he has learned most about leading through a crisis, Barrett said, is “to set a clear direction; to let everyone know that we are in it together, to empower them to own the areas in which they are responsible; to keep communicating clearly, concisely and openly – so that none of us are surprised by anything. Then repeat.”
“Like inspiring leaders before him who have been challenged by daunting odds in times of immense uncertainty, Barrett has risen to the occasion – showing himself and those around him that he is a leader worth following,” added Niel.
Barrett’s vision for the future of The Mission starts with seeing the potential in someone who is struggling – often a potential that they cannot see. He added, “Ultimately, my vision is to keep innovating, improving and helping our clients. I want us to continue to find innovative ways to help those in our society who are most vulnerable. And to never lose our heart and our reason for being here, which is to provide opportunities for individuals seeking recovery, and to help put an end to homelessness – one person at a time.”