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Whether it’s HIV prevention or treatment, Unified HIV Health and Beyond is a natural first step for many in Southeast Michigan looking for help and resources. And while the nonprofit certainly does offer immediate case-by-response services, its also a hub for a variety of programs ranging from Hepatitis C testing, housing assistance, tobacco use reduction programs, a food pantry and much more. Just over a month ago, Kevin Howley took over the role of executive director for the organization from Linda Bielskis who retired for personal reasons. He said that while his role will be to serve as an interim director for Unified as they search for a long-term replacement, he is excited to let the community know of the “broad spectrum of services” that the nonprofit provides.
“I’m not here to make a lot of change, I’m here to help the organization think strategically about its next steps, so I will be doing a lot of work with the development team to try and understand how we can build a network for outreach. This organization, frankly, is underappreciated and does not get the love and support from the community from a financial perspective that other organizations do,” Howley said. “So, in many ways, I think a lot of my functions will be somewhat corporate. I’m not trying to change programming, it seems to be running well in terms of serving the client, my service will be making the organization strong … from a financial perspective.”
Howley has had 18 years of experience as something of a consultant for both non- and for-profit organizations in need of help during a transitional period.
“I kind of fell into it because I was searching for what I wanted to do next, and the foundation community in Philadelphia where I was living at the time, had a couple of contacts in that community and they were concerned about the financial stability of a nonprofit community generally, and then one interim assignment came up and then it just snowballed from there,” he said. “So, I’ve been the go-to person for foundations who are trying to support organizations who are going through, perhaps awkward transitions.”
He has served as the executive director for local LGBTQ-focused organizations, too, like The Ruth Ellis Center in 2008 and Affirmations in 2010. He said that his experience working with those organizations laid a solid groundwork for dealing with many of the marginalized groups, like LGBTQ people, that will make use of Unified’s services. And because Unified’s clientele extends even beyond the scope of the people who made use of REC or Affirmations’ services, he’s excited for the unique challenge.
When he spoke with Between The Lines, he was in his first couple of days of fulltime work for Unified, but said that his primary areas of focus would be “sustainability, business model structure, board development issues and fundraising.” Howley said that development would be first on the list of his interests, citing a need for more employee development-focused funding.
“Because Unified is funded through federal, state and local contracts, they have gone to the community to get financial support that we call unrestricted support, but as the organization has grown, with that comes a lot of need for HR services, employee development, community development,” Howley said. “And we’re developing all these young leaders in the community, but we don’t have the training that they need to give them the tools that they need.”
When asked why Unified stood out to him over other projects, Howley said he was drawn to Unified’s culture of dedication.
“People obviously choose me too, and I’m appreciative of that, but I like to work for projects for which I have a passion for the work and where I have a passion for the people doing the work. So, I think what I really appreciate about Unified is the people there,” he said. “They’re not there for the amenities you get as an employee for a big company, they’re there because they care and their passion is overwhelming. A lot of them would do the work even they weren’t getting paid. So, for me to be able to support folks doing that means a lot to me.”
To find out more about Unified HIV Health and Beyond visit miunified.org.