Kind, genuine, caring, compassionate, brave, feisty, fearless; these words spring to mind when describing the Helen Moran-Wolf, a woman whose retirement comes with applause and accolades for all she has accomplished.
After 21 years of faithfully serving the children and families in the communities of the San Gabriel Valley, Foothill Family Service CEO Helen Moran-Wolf will be retiring in July.
Foothill family Service will host a retirement dinner on Thursday, June 6 to celebrate the 300,000 families that have been served because of Helenâ€™s leadership, vision and tenacity to petition for large grants.
Helen will be greatly missed at Foothill Family Services. In her 21 years she has overseen huge expansion, beginning with one office in Pasadena where children and families came once a week, to the now seven family centers that send out social workers into the community, to homes, and to schools to provide the best service possible.
â€œI will really miss her guidance. She has a vision of how things should become and what theyâ€™ll be and itâ€™s really guided the agency and we will miss that,â€ Chief of Clinical Services Patricia Avery said who worked with Helen from the beginning.
In 1991 the agency had 24 employees who served 2,000 clients per year with a budget of $800,000. Currently the 300 employees serve over 20,000 clients annually with a budget of $17 million throughout the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, Glendale and Burbank.
When Helen joins her cancer-surviving husband, Edwood Wolf, in retirement she plans on spending more time with her adorable two-year-old grandson Andrew and daughter Vanessa who live in San Francisco.
â€œLife could change very quickly and it sort of changed his perspective so I thought you know heâ€™s right. There are things we want to do, we want to travel. Iâ€™ve been here a long time so itâ€™s probably time to get some new fresh perspective in,â€ Helen said.
They have a trip planned to Turkey and the Greek Islands after her retirement and next year Helen and Edwood hope to tour New Zealand
Over the years, the grants and partnerships the agency has received have contributed to who Foothill reaches. The first big contract they received under Governor Pete Wilson for $2 million lead them to work with teen parents, a widely underserved population.
â€œHelen and I, when we first started working together were putting together a lot of proposals. We would spend a lot of late nights together and sometimes get a little silly and a lot of laughing, but we got those grants,â€ Chief of Clinical Services Patricia Avery said.
Another piece that was transformational and exciting for Helen was the contract with the department of mental health given at a time LA County was expanding childrenâ€™s services dramatically. This contract allowed Foothill to put therapists in schools and serve each childâ€™s need without labeling it as the often stigmatized word â€˜mental health.â€™
â€œIts fun to watch programs grow and flourish and hear the stories of how peoples lives are changed, thatâ€™s really exciting.â€
The agency has also developed a special expertise in providing services for families with children 0-5 under Helenâ€™s leadership.
â€œIt goes back to my mother really, she was orphaned very young. She was placed with some relatives who worked out very badly and ended up putting her in an orphanage. That really had an impact on the rest of her life,â€
Her mom was placed with a family when she was 14 who saw here potential and helped her eventually become a nurse, but the early years were never forgotten.
â€œI could see the impact that what happens to you as a child makes a difference. And I thought, we need to start as early as possible,â€ Helen said.
Helen moved to Southern California from Brighton, England when she was 21 to follow Edwood Wolf, who she met when he came to graduate school in London. They have been happily married for more than 40 years.
Prior to joining Foothill Family Service, Helen served as the Executive Director of the Assistance League Family Service Agency. Helen received her M.S.W. from the University of Southern California and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Marriage, Family and Child Counselor with a Certificate in Advanced Management.
â€œShe understands the plight many of our families and clients that are in and when she communicates that to potential donors and supporters, itâ€™s really heartfelt and meaningful and it translates often to action; you want to do more for the agency because of what she said. Iâ€™ve known her a long time and I think sheâ€™s such an exceptional leader and she was one of the reasons why I came to work here,â€ Development Associate Lisa Vandergriff said.
Reflecting on her time here, Helen said, â€œI am going to miss the people. I was very fortunate I have wonderful folks that I work with, an outstanding chief of clinical services, a really great staff here and I had a wonderful board who really supported us and who helped us with fund raising.â€
Director of Human Resources Mary Oâ€™Brien had the privilege of working with Helen for 10 years. She recalled a time when Helen was especially understanding about a challenge Mary was having with her granddaughter.
â€œIt was so nice to know that you can have a boss that has that depth of understanding and understands the relationships that people have that report to her, not just the work they do, but that whatâ€™s going on in their personal lives really matters. She really has a natural compassion for the staff and what theyâ€™re going through,â€ Oâ€™Brien said.
Helen leaves behind this legacy for the community to now take what they have gained from her and give to each other.
â€œItâ€™s helping the clients but I think itâ€™s also bringing in the community so they can see that they can really help to make a difference too in the lives of these families and by people helping other people we really strengthen the whole community.â€