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YouthZone to market success far and wide

Kelley Cox Post Independent
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Debbie Wilde will be stepping down after 22 years as executive director of YouthZone to launch a new venture aimed at taking the organization’s successful model to other communities.

Wilde will officially take the helm in June as CEO of the yet-to-be-named new nonprofit organization. Like YouthZone, it will be based in Glenwood Springs, but with a more global focus on helping youth to find their way.

“This has been a long and carefully thought-out decision,” Wilde said. “Kudos to the YouthZone board for being bold enough to carry the vision forward. And I appreciate the community’s trust in me to be in this position.”

Lori Mueller, who has been the YouthZone program director for the past six years, is set to become the new executive director, effective June 1. She will oversee a paid staff of 17 and an annual budget of $1.1 million.

“I will strive to continue the quality leadership Debbie has provided over the years,” Mueller said. “I’m very excited at the opportunity, and will be very challenged by it.”

Mueller has more than 18 years of professional experience in parent education and family advocacy. She was also a longtime YouthZone volunteer before joining the staff.

“As program director, she has demonstrated team and community leadership that has facilitated YouthZone’s continued growth and excellence,” YouthZone Board Chairman Steve Nilsson said in a letter to donors sent out last week.

Wilde has been with YouthZone for 30 of the organization’s 35 years, and has been the executive director since 1989. It was originally founded as Garfield Youth Services.

YouthZone provides youth mentoring, prevention and crisis intervention programs, as well as parenting classes, from Aspen to Parachute. It also works closely with the juvenile court system in the 9th Judicial District to provide case management services.

Wilde will lead the new venture in licensing the systems and tools developed by YouthZone to evaluate and screen youth and their families and match them with the appropriate programs.

Those models can then be marketed to other organizations around the country, or even the world, along with the necessary coaching to properly implement them, Wilde said.

“We are way out ahead of where other organizations and communities are in terms of providing youth services,” Wilde said.

The new venture will be separate from the funding base and various community fundraisers that support YouthZone locally. By expanding the reach of YouthZone’s model, Wilde said the local programs can benefit as well.

“I think we will see a growth of knowledge locally by mixing it up and learning from other communities,” Wilde said. “That can be very impactful for us.”

She added, “When you can teach what you do, that’s when you really know what you do.”

It’s also an opportunity to attract and retain staff by spreading the word about YouthZone’s success, she said. And it can lead to more financial and intellectual resources that can benefit both organizations, she said.

In addition to leading the new marketing venture, Wilde is also writing a book about how to grow and sustain successful nonprofit organizations.

Titled “The Sustainable Nonprofit – 10 Strategies to Grow Successful and Exceptional Organizations,” the book can serve as a guide for the future direction of YouthZone, as well as other nonprofit organizations, Wilde explained.

The book is partly her gift to Mueller and future directors of YouthZone, “so all of these years of experience don’t just come away with me,” she said.

Wilde also hopes it can be a valuable guide for the leaders of any nonprofit organization.

“It’s a good time for us to be sharing what we have learned over the years, and especially through the recent tough economic times,” Wilde said.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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