Following the announcement of a new executive director taking over at Flat River Outreach Ministries (FROM), a transition has been taking place and is near completion. Wendie Preiss, whose last name is pronounced and sounds like “price”, started in her new position on January 6. Dawn Broene has been helping with the transition and will officially turn over the reigns this week.
Moving On but Remaining Local
Broene and her family moved to Lowell in 1997, but it would take her until 2008 to decide to become more involved within the community. After seeing a handwritten FROM flier seeking volunteers she was interested enough to check it out. In 2008 she started volunteering in the thrift shop. In September 2013 she was offered a position with the organization as Project Manager. Then in July 2014 she took on the role of Executive Director.
Broene let the FROM board know of her intentions to resign from her position in October 2019. This didn’t come as a surprise as she has always been looking at making a move, although it came a little earlier than originally planned. Broene has always had it in her mind that she would go back to a career in real estate. In the early 2000s she was licensed but ended up leaving the industry in part due to the housing crash in 2009. It has been a goal to get back into real estate after her son graduates from Lowell High School in 2021. Her husband works in Muskegon and the plan was to move closer to his job at that point.
However, the plan was accelerated slightly as things started falling into place. Browne is quick to mention that her departure from FROM is not because of any issue with the organization. “I love this community. This position has given me the opportunity to people in the community. I’m so blessed.” she says thinking about all of the people she has come in contact with over the years. She has gone from not knowing much about Lowell to being part of an organization that helps serve the community and for that she is thankful.
After some reflection, Broene felt that FROM is currently in a place where her departure makes sense. Programming is strong and the effort to bring affordable housing to Lowell is underway. While it has begun, there are still big pieces of the puzzle when it comes to FROM’s housing after the purchase of property along Main Street in 2016. Broene felt that with a slight lull in action regarding this project it would be a good time for her to resign. She wanted to make sure that whoever took her place would be able to be brought up to speed during the information gathering phase rather than in the middle of taking action on the project.
Bringing teams together Broene indicates as the top of the list of accomplishments during her time as Executive Director. Staff has gone from 4 to 9 due to the success of FROM’s programming and thrift shop. She challenges those involved on staff or as volunteers to dream big. And she has done what she can to give them the tools to accomplish dreams and goals. Broene has also helped bring more awareness in the community about their various programs and fundraising efforts including Food Fight, Lunch Buddies, the food pantry, the thrift store, and tax preparation. When Broene was first in the Executive Director position Food Fight was generating $50,000 in food and monetary donations. This past event saw a total of $125,000.
Passing the Baton
Preiss has experience working with businesses and non-profit organizations.
She worked at Amway for 15 years. In December 2018 she started her own consulting business. But life would take another turn when the opportunity to take over the top role at FROM presented itself. Preiss and her family were already familiar with the organization having spent time volunteering in the donation room. It was an interview she couldn’t pass up as she felt the position aligns with her values perfectly. FROM was already a client so she was familiar with the people and workings of the group aside from a volunteer perspective.
Continuing where Broene left off, Preiss will build upon relationships and partnerships. She also has connections in Grand Rapids, Lansing, and other Michigan locations thanks to her consulting business. It’s anticipated that the experience Preiss has blazing new trails with an emphasis on involvement from those close to the mission will work well as FROM’s affordable housing project continues to develop.
While the overall mission for FROM will remain, Preiss will bring fresh eyes and a different skill set to the position. The two women have been working together. Throughout the course of January Broene has spent less and less time in the office but has been available should any questions arise.
In the short-term Preiss is looking to continue to meet and learn the names of those involved with the organization who she is not yet familiar with. She’s also eager to get connected with individuals, businesses, and other organizations in the community to continue relationships and partnerships. Long term Preiss is looking to broaden FROM’s volunteer base and continue to get the word out about all the organization has to offer.
“I know I have big shoes to fill.” comments Preiss. But she is up for the challenge of stepping in and learning about her new role. She’s eager to learn more about FROM’s housing effort and put her skills into its future.
See You Soon
For Broene, it’s not goodbye but see you soon as she’ll remain, at least for the near future, in the community. “FROM is how I found my community.” she says. A farewell open house is scheduled for February 3 from 12:30PM – 2:30PM for those wishing to send Broene off of her new adventures.