Pathway Homes’ first-ever Director Emeritus, Emil Franks, recently shared his vision as one where Pathways will have a home for all individuals in need – “We will be able to say ‘yes, we have a home for you’ and our wait list will be gone.” He added, “all individuals in need deserve a good home.”
Two decades ago, former CEO Joel McNair recognized this passion as he heard Emil speak out for the needs of the mentally ill in our community at a local Fairfax County government budget meeting. He approached Emil and said, “We need you on our board.” It was a fortunate meeting for Pathways as Emil went on to play a critical role in leading the growth of the agency in many positions, including Chairman, and Vice-Chairman. In the twenty years that followed, he was also an active member on the Board Development, Philanthropy, Advocacy and Strategic Planning committees.
After so many years of tireless service to Pathways, Emil feels he has contributed his best and others must now carry the torch. While we support his decision, we did not want to lose this valuable resource. As result, we invited Emil to serve as our first-ever Director Emeritus. With this appointment, we provide Emil with a much deserved respite while continuing to retain the benefit of his vast experience. As Emil steps back from the day-to-day activities of the agency, he feels this position will give him the opportunity to see things more clearly from this new vantage point.
During this transition from Board member to Emeritus role, we asked Emil to reflect on his time with us. First and foremost, Emil expressed that his passion comes from his own personal journey to find that safe and secure home for his lovely daughter. He feels fortunate to have found that at Pathways and he would like others to have that same good fortune. Over the years, he fervently advocated for the needs of individuals with mental illness and their family members still searching for this type of support. He shared that he is most proud of his role in supporting Pathways’ ability to acquire additional homes to help these individuals and families. He recounted, “Each year at the Annual Board Meeting, Joel and now Sylisa, share a chart showing the number of homes we provide and the number of individuals we serve. Each year, that has trended up!” Emil finds a great deal of satisfaction in seeing more individuals secure a much needed home and the services that help them stay in those homes.
Emil also shared his satisfaction in the seamless and positive leadership transition from Joel to Sylisa in 2011. He commends the agency’s selection of Sylisa as Joel’s successor and the great job she continues to do. Also, he expressed that he is amazed by the passion, skills and dedication of all the staff. It is his feeling that the work of Pathway Homes rivals any across the nation. The staff equally commends Emil’s tremendous role in the quality of care we provide. In particular, his board colleagues said it best as they proclaimed, “Emil’s unflagging commitment and advocacy have left a permanent imprint on the development of Pathway Homes. We will be forever grateful for his contributions and celebrate his loyalty.”
For Emil, among the highlights over the past twenty years, he identified the Stevenson Place contract award as a huge step forward for Pathways. Also, he feels proud of the advocacy efforts on behalf of those we serve and, in particular, the fight to eradicate stigma as we continue to open many new homes in communities across the region. He shared many situations where a community did not initially welcome our presence, but later became a good neighbor as they recognized that Pathways is a good neighbor and a valuable addition to these communities.
Emil’s wish is for everyone to remember that the individuals we serve live in great homes and deserve them. In closing, he asserted, “With proper support, individuals with mental illness are wonderful citizens and people quite worthy of the community’s care.”
The Board of Directors, staff, and residents of Pathway Homes are extremely grateful to Emil for his many years of selfless service in promotion of our mission and vision. We are thrilled that he will remain with us in this new capacity and welcome his continued presence in the agency. Thank you Emil!