Lance W. Elder
(Retired, President & CEO)
Enjoy learning about what Lance had to say when reflecting upon his 22-year career at EAC Network.
You joined EAC Network as its President & CEO in 1988. What brought about a big jump like that?
While working at the Nassau Coliseum, Chuck Fuschillo, who was then the Chief Operating Officer of EAC Network, recruited me to join his board of directors. While serving on the board I became extremely enamored with the organization’s mission, vision, and leadership. Two years later, when Chuck moved on to become a New York Senator, it seemed like a natural transition after the board asked me to become the agency’s new President & CEO. And the rest, I guess you could say, is history.
At that time what opportunities did you see, and what was your vision for the organization?
Coming out of the for-profit world, and into the non-profit world, I had a clear picture of what I needed to do for people in need. Even though I had succeeded in the for-profit world, I hadn’t had the opportunity to impact real change. My vision was to bring about lasting change and positively impact the lives of thousands of people in our communities.
The agency’s growth is notable. Having grown it from helping 32,000 clients a year, to now helping more than 80,000 each year, what did you do to ensure the agency’s growth?
Besides increasing levels of support, we engaged in best practices and centralized those functions that ensured the continued growth and success of the organization. Tania Peterson Chandler, Glen Stanis, and Lori Browning, were the guiding and driving force, supported by a committed Chairman of the Board, the board of directors, and talented staff members who shared a vision of growing the agency into what it is today.
What was your greatest challenge over the years?
Responding to critical needs and saving programs that lost funding. Overcoming funding challenges required quick responses, creativity, dedication, flexibility, perseverance, an amazing staff, and a trusted Board of Directors who provided critical support and guidance.
What do people think of when they think about EAC Network?
It depends on who you ask. Some of our clients will probably tell you that we saved their lives. Our community partners will tell you that together we are changing lives and positively impacting communities. The agencies we work together with will say that we are capable of doing just about anything. Over time these kinds of successes come back to a dedicated team that is committed to fulfilling a mission of empowering, assisting, and caring for as many people as possible through the provision of unique programs.
While not many people recognize us by our name, they do know some of our programs. Meals On Wheels, Community Service, Community Guardianship, Alternatives for Youth, and Safe Harbour, are just a few that are changing and saving lives.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
Our accomplishments are EAC Network’s diversity of programming, a 50-year history of adapting to change, and an empowered team that responded quickly to opportunities and needs as they presented themselves. The agency’s wide array of programming still makes EAC Network especially unique, and our greatest accomplishment is being able to provide real solutions for people who are experiencing multiple problems in their lives.
The construction of EAC Network’s Suffolk County Child Advocacy Center will also stand out as a great collective accomplishment for the agency. There were many generous and visionary people involved who made it possible for EAC Network to help reduce the trauma of child sexual/physical abuse and promote the coordinated prosecution of offenders.
What most inspired you throughout your time at EAC Network?
With an organization of over 500 employees, my senior level team inspired me every single day. I was dependent upon them to see their way clear to help and assist people in every capacity and in every situation. The people we helped were low-income, unserved and vulnerable populations in need and or in crisis. I empowered my team to take action and pursue opportunities that best enabled people in need to take control of their lives.
What are you most proud of in terms of your personal legacy?
I am most proud to have surrounded myself with great people who I was able to learn from. I asked a lot of questions, took advantage of opportunities when they arose, and maintained an open mind. Every opportunity was linked to other opportunities. I changed and adapted when needed.
What would you most like to see happen in the next decade at EAC Network?
That the organization continues to stay flexible and respond quickly and effectively to identified needs as they present themselves. Providing viable solutions in an ever-changing world is key to staying viable as a non-profit.
“Wear a pair of good shoes, because you will be doing a lot of walking, running, and standing as the leader of any non-profit.”
What are your personal achievements, accomplishments, and recognitions?
I received the Rider University Alumni Association’s Harold L. Conover Leadership Award for exemplary leadership qualities in a not-for-profit organization, and numerous awards including appointment as an honorary Vice Chair of the New York Area U.S.M.C. Toys for Tots Drive and am the recipient of the President’s Award presented by the Association for Addiction Professionals of New York. In 2002 I received the Excellence in Teaching and Scholarship Award from St. John’s University.
I was an adjunct professor at St. John’s University for more than 20 years teaching two courses per semester. In 2002, I received the Excellence in Teaching Award from St. John’s. I was additionally selected as an arbitrator/mediator for the New York State Mediation Board and I continue to arbitrate in various labor disputes throughout the state.
As an involved member of the community I served as the former Chairman of the Board of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, the Advisory Council on Vocational Education at Nassau Community College, and the International Association of Assembly Managers. I am currently on the Board of the Long Island Federally Qualified Health Centers, and also a member of the Nassau County Domestic Violence Task Force, and the Nassau County Heroin Prevention Task Force.
What advice do you have for people that would like to follow in your footsteps?
Get in the Arena! The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievements; and who at the worst, if he fails at least fails while daring greatly. Theodore Roosevelt