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Director of Hope House will step down

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GREENFIELD –— Hancock Hope House, the area’s only facility providing shelter and outreach for the homeless in Hancock, Shelby and Rush counties, is seeking a new executive director.

Steve Vail, who assumed the leadership position in May 2011, is stepping away from the role to devote more time to other endeavors, saying the shelter is well-positioned for the transition to new leadership.

“I stepped in on an interim basis, and that interim lasted three years,” Vail said Friday.

Vail was recently selected as a board member of the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corp., a member-owned nonprofit that provides financing and related services to rural utilities for infrastructure development and other needs.

The position involves significant travel, Vail said, and with his other business interests and involvement with his family’s farm, the time was ripe for a transition, he said.

“Steve has done an outstanding job, and he has been very up front with us about assisting with the transition,” said Hope House board president John Watters.

“The best situation would be for Steve to stay, but we couldn’t ask for a better transition situation,” Watters said.

Vail said he will continue to work with the board and new leadership through the transition period.

The board recently put out the call for applications, and Watters said the organization is just beginning its search for Vail’s successor.

Bringing 19 years of business and organizational management experience in a variety of roles at Hancock Regional Hospital, Vail expanded operations and raised awareness of both Hope House and its mission.

“It certainly appears to have really grown as far as its outreach and what they have to offer,” said Love INC executive director Jim Peters, whose organization collaborates on referring clients for services and resources.

“Hope House is a wonderful organization that has done good work for many years,” said Mary Gibble, president of the Hancock County Community Foundation, which has supported the facility with grant money. “Steve brought in a new set of skills and looked at the overall organization to take it to the next level by bringing in new systems,” Gibble said.

During his tenure, Hope House expanded and developed skills programs to help those living at the shelter to return to self-sufficiency. The facility’s prime revenue driver, the WEARhouse thrift store, was also improved and staffed to be more efficient and productive.

“All I’ve done is try to provide some guidance and mentoring, and I think I’ve done that,” Vail said Friday. “We wanted to reconnect Hope House to the community, and we’ve done that. We’ve established a solid foundation in building those relationships.”

  Vail also attributes much of Hope House’s success to an enlarged and expanded board of directors representing a broad cross-section of the community.

  “We have an excellent board and staff that have done a great job in moving the house forward,” he said.

Located at 35 E. Pierson St. in Greenfield, Hope House first opened its doors in 1991. Six years later, a federal grant allowed the shelter to purchase a factory/warehouse at its present location.

It now has a 35-bed capacity with 15 beds serving male residents and the remaining beds for women and family units, according to the shelter’s website.

Those who have watched, worked with and financially supported the facility over its 20-year life say the future remains bright for Hope House and the people it serves.

“We are all going to miss Steve in that role,” Gibble said. “But I think the next executive director will benefit greatly because of the groundwork he’s put in place.”

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