A career from the heart
Friday, August 7, 2009
By Eileen Connelly, OSU
DAYTON DEANERY — It’s a true blessing to follow a career path that enables us put our faith info action and have the sense that we are fulfilling God’s call for us. As she retired as executive director of Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley (CSSMV) on Aug. 1, Elaine Jelly could definitely say her career has given her those opportunities.
A native of Richmond, Ind., who was educated by the Oldenburg Franciscan Sisters, Jelly said her Catholic faith, as well as the example of family members, strongly influenced her desire to be of service to others from an early age.
|Elaine Jelly, left, recently retired executive director of Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley, poses with her successor, Laura Roesch. (Courtesy photo)|
“My great aunt Dorothy (Mechenburg) was one example,” Jelly explained. “She was a very devout Catholic and had very much an impression on my outlook on life. She taught me to be good and caring and make a difference in the lives of others.”
Armed with that giving spirit, Jelly decided to become a social worker and attended the University of Dayton, where she received “a great Marianist education.” She went to earn a master’s degree in social work from the University of Cincinnati.
Prior to coming to CSSMV Jelly spent 16 years with Montgomery County Job and Family Services (Children Services Division), where she worked in numerous positions, including caseworker in intake, protective services and foster, line supervisor, foster care specialist, crisis intervention specialist and project specialist.
Although Jelly found her work in the pubic sector to be rewarding, when she learned the position of supervisor of CSSMV’s pregnancy counseling center was available, the chance to work in a faith-based setting was appealing. She was hired by Ron Eckerle, then executive director and a fellow parishioner at the former St. Agnes Church in Dayton.
Over the next two decades Jelly’s journey with CSSMV progressed as she served as children’s service director, associate director of the Dayton office and director of the regional office, including Dayton and Sidney. As the first female executive director of CCSMV, Jelly supervised the management of 20 social service programs in eight counties, serving more than 20,000 individuals with a budget of $19 million. In the past year, Jelly received an award from the National Association of Social Workers and was on the list of the Miami Valley’s Ten Top Women in the Dayton Daily News.
Although humble about her accomplishments at CSSMV, Jelly said she is proud to have been involved in obtaining a federal grant that helped expand the organization’s pregnancy counseling program, funded a number of new projects and created opportunities to collaborate with other area social service agencies.
“It’s been wonderful to develop new ideas with our partners in the community, to work together to build our resources and find creative ways to better serve those in need,” she said.
It has been especially rewarding, added Jelly, “to see the changes our clients are able to make in their lives when given some hope and encouragement.”
She recalled the example of a teenager in foster care whom she worked with years before who tracked Jelly down at CSSMV after seeing her on television promoting the agency’s services.
“Twenty years later, she has a family and is doing well,” Jelly said. “She told me how having someone to look out for her and be her advocate made such a difference in her life. I never would have thought at the time that it would have such an impact.”
While her work with CSSMV has given her the chance to make a difference the lives of others, Jelly is quick to point out how it has also given her the opportunity to grow both personally and spiritually.
“Being in this environment has strengthened my faith and brought me closer to God,” she said. “I’ve worked with people who have inspired me every day — our staff and our volunteers. They come here out of their hearts. And, when I’ve seen the struggles our clients are facing, their faith and how they’re trying to be hopeful, it has helped me stay more in tune with my faith.”
For the past month, Jelly has been working with her successor, Laura Roesch, to ensure a smooth transition. Roush, who resides in Miamisburg with her family and is member of St. Henry Parish, has been a staff member of CSSMV for more than 20 years. She most recently served as the agency’s manager of special projects, adoption, foster care and pregnancy counseling.
“Laura has a lot of energy and enthusiasm,” Jelly said. “She knows our mission and is a strong leader. I feel very good about leaving things in her hands.”
The married mother of four grown children, proud grandmother of two and a member of St. Paul Parish in Yellow Springs, Jelly said she is now looking forward to spending more time with family and plans to continue to support CSSMV in any way she can.