Farewell & Good Luck Sharon

The reality of my upcoming retirement is both thrilling and terrifying, and it is in the liminal space of transition that I have to write to say goodbye and thank you to the Roanoke community. It is a thrilling time because I get to define what is considered the encore stage of life, after child-rearing and a fulfilling career. And it is a terrifying time, well, because I get to define my encore!

When I see the iconic image of the Mill Mountain Star or read Roanoke’s motto “Star City of the South,” I flashback to growing up in the Roanoke Valley. Tinker Mountain and the Mill Mountain Star were the backdrops of my youth. The mountains symbolize “home” for me, and did even when I lived out of state for many years.

I spent the first 18 years of my life cushioned among these mountains. This community nurtured me, educated me, gave me my first job at age 15 and sent me out into the world.  When I returned for visits to see my family, the sight of Tinker Mountain or a trip to the New Yorker Deli told me I was home. In 2012, I was offered the extraordinary opportunity to be the President & CEO of Family Service of Roanoke Valley. Being able to lead a progressive 118 year old agency with a reputation for quality mental health counseling, innovative prevention services for youth, and life-saving case management services for incapacitated adults has been my way to give back to this community. 

In the last seven years, Family Service has made some significant program changes:

  • With the help of a federal grant, we expanded our Teen Outreach Program to serve more than 400 youth at 25 sites throughout Roanoke City.
  • Thanks to a collaborative grant from United Way of Roanoke Valley, we implemented Strengthening Youth Opportunities for Success which, among other things, expanded community counseling from two after-school centers to five. 
  • We expanded our reach in both Public Guardianship and Personal Affairs Management, serving more people in our region as case managers, representative payees and conservators.
  • The Play Therapy Institute formalized the opportunity for our intern and resident program to focus intensely on training the next generation of play therapists. Our clinicians were trained and implemented Child Parent Relationship Therapy groups.
  • The Batterers Intervention Program, started in 1985, added a female co-facilitator to enrich the education and deepen the conversation.
  • A federal grant expanded counseling services to refugees and immigrants with limited English proficiency who are victims of crime.

Family Service has broadened its community collaborations with more than 20 active partnership and collaborations. The Trauma Informed Community Network, Healthy Roanoke Valley, RAYSAC, Roanoke Prevention Alliance, Roanoke Valley Collective Response, Mental Health Refugee Council and the Family Violence Advocacy Council are among those most critical to our community. The collaborations allowed us to have an impact and serve our community in ways we never had before.

This year we celebrated the fifth anniversary of Celebrity Tip Off, Family Service’s signature special event. Staff and amazing volunteers plan all year to create a mind-blowing event that has raised awareness and over $250,000 for mental health services for children and adults.

Family Service has an amazing, committed and talented staff and board with a strong new leader in Linda Hentschel. Together they will take Family Service in directions I haven’t even imagined to strengthen lives, heal trauma and restore hope.

And that is how it should be.

Carl Bard said, “Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”

My daughter Lindsey gave me two options for my retirement:  I could move to Litchfield Beach or I could move back to Charlotte.  So I am headed back to Charlotte to “start from now to make a brand new ending” for the next chapter of my life. 

Thanks to the staff and board of Family Service for seven years of professional inspiration, growth and uproarious laughter.

And thanks, Roanoke, for being my Star City of the South.

Sharon Jarrett Thacker, President and CEO