I have been at Real Change now for just over two months, so I thought it was time I introduced myself. My name is Shelley Dooley, and I’m the new managing director. My friends and colleagues were surprised that I took this job. I’ve never been known as a visible advocate and certainly would not consider myself a writer. What I do bring to Real Change is 25 years of direct service to single adults who struggle, significant work in supportive housing and extensive administrative skills. When I applied for this job, I felt it was a long shot and never expected to get an interview. Imagine my surprise when I not only got an interview but also got the job!
I knew in my first week what a good fit this job and organization are for me. The vendors and staff have been incredibly welcoming, and I feel like I have found my “work home.”
Aaron Burkhalter, our editor, asked me to share a little about who I am with our amazing readership. Born and raised in Seattle, I graduated from Seattle University with a bachelor’s degree in political science. I had full intentions of going to law school but took a work-study job with the King County Prosecutor’s office and found that social services was a natural fit. Twenty years of managing supportive housing with Catholic Housing Services and Compass Housing Alliance gave me the opportunity to build my administrative skills. I found that I really enjoy the mix of working directly with folks and making sure the bills are paid and staff members have what they need to succeed.
I’m a single mom to a 15-year-old boy who keeps me very busy with sports, outdoor activities and school. We have a dog and cat who each weigh 15 pounds. I’m fortunate that my whole family is still located in the Pacific Northwest so we see each other often. I’m a former foster parent and serve on a few boards in the area that are related to children’s mental health and education.
In the past two months at Real Change I have spent a lot of time in the Vendor Center getting to know the vendors. They are the heart and soul of our work, and I am so blessed to have the opportunity to walk with them on their journey. In my experience, if you are kind, consistent, provide structure and show that you truly care about people, you can build an effective partnership for growth. My goal is to continue to grow our vendor numbers as well as our circulation.
Real Change does the hard work of supporting folks when they’re really struggling or when they’re thriving. We are breaking down the barriers to stability at a time when stability resources are being cut by the local funders. We provide an opportunity for self-determination and safety net, because of our readers and supporters, that is not impacted by the local government cuts. This is the only way to do the work that needs to be done without the bureaucratic hoops getting in the way.
I spent many years jumping through those hoops only to see homelessness and deaths of those trying to survive outside increase. At times I feel a pang of guilt for not being part of that system any longer and seeing my longtime colleagues have to take up the charge. Then I remind myself that we are still in the mix with our advocacy and support of the vendors. What makes us different is our ability to adjust as needed to a changing climate, our ability to be nimble and creative.
Founding Director Tim Harris and I make a good team. He’s the face and I am in the background, where I’m much more comfortable. I’ll continue to challenge myself, as I ask our vendors and staff to do, in areas that aren’t naturally comfortable, such as advocacy and writing. This is the beginning of what I anticipate is a long journey with Real Change and our vendors, and I’m just thrilled to be here.
Wait, there's more. Check out the full January 24th issue.