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Regional Nonprofit Women Leaders Enjoy Downtime

Omega’s 250-acre Rhinebeck, New York, campus offers rest and rejuvenation not just to workshop participants, but also to nonprofit leaders. In September 2016, the Dyson Foundation invited a group of leaders who were past participants of the New York Council of Nonprofits's executive director training to a "Day of Respite" at Omega.

Alumna Casandra Beam, executive director of Ulster Literacy Association, initiated the idea of gathering with her peers for much-needed time away to converse, connect, and rest.

Nine alumnae arrived on a beautiful September day and began their retreat with activities designed to foster reflection and dialogue. The activities were created and facilitated by Beam and Susan Grove, Omega’s community engagement manager and former NYCON training participant.

"Susan and I designed activities intended to establish trust, allowing the group a chance to share from a more vulnerable place, rather than from the more typical leadership role," Beam said. "As it turned out, our group responded beautifully, with heartfelt sharing about the immense stresses executive directors experience, regardless of what phase their agency is moving through." 

In the afternoon, participants chose from a list of activities available on campus, from kayaking on Long Pond Lake or reading in the Ram Dass Library to enjoying ice cream in the Café or meditating at the Sanctuary. Each participant was invited to structure her own downtime to be most supportive to her. Each leader chose her own balance of spending more time with others or withdrawing into some rare solo time to reconnect with herself.

“The day was extremely nourishing,” said Elise Gold, executive director of Jewish Family Service of Orange County. “There was a balance of concrete, how-to support and emotional connection, and the freedom of the afternoon also allowed us space to give to ourselves in ways that we typically don’t do. I was grateful to be able to walk to the Sanctuary and just sit by the little pond.”

Beam echoed Gold's positive experience adding that her day enabled her to have new insights about what true success feels like, describing a more internal space of confidence, belief, and surrender.

"I returned the next day to my office with a refreshed sense of purpose and belonging," she said.

Attendees pictured:

Back Row (left to right): Nicole Fenichel-Hewitt, Spark Media Project; Caren Fairweather, Maternal Infant Services-Network; Cynthia Fiore, Taconic Resources for Independence; Ava Bynum, Hudson Valley Seed; Elise Gold, Jewish Family Service of Orange County.

Front Row (left to right): Elizabeth Waldstein-Hart, Walkway Over the Hudson; Casandra Beam, Ulster Literacy Association; Kellyann Kostyal, Safe Homes of Orange County; Lisa Silverstone, Safe Harbors of the Hudson.