Communities do not thrive without leaders. Napa Valley is blessed with many people who have taken charge and made meaningful contributions to the lives of others. In the spirit of thanks and appreciation for these amazing people, and acknowledgement of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Napa Valley Marketplace names Tracy Lamb, Executive Director of NEWS, Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Services, as our Community Leader.
Tracy grew up in Spring Lake, a small community in western Michigan. She started on her path while she was young, graduating from Western Michigan University with a degree in Social Work, with her heart set on creating justice. Tracy and her husband moved from Michigan to Chico in 1984, driving through a blustering snowstorm to the Golden State. Their subsequent journey had them moving across the state, like a ping-pong ball for a few years, from Chico to Napa to Santa Clara, back to Napa, to Sonoma, and finally back to Napa. During each of these moves, Tracy held a position which helped her build a well-rounded understanding of social work: she began as a volunteer, she was a crime victim advocate, then became a program manager and spent two years in the Sonoma County DA’s office. Her work in Sonoma helping convict abusers was very rewarding; however, Tracy felt a strong pull to be in her own community. Shea Hunter, who was interim director of NEWS in 2006, was aware Tracy wanted to work close to home. Shea knew Tracy’s experience and character was just what NEWS needed—then and now—and suggested Tracy apply for the position of Executive Director. Tracy was selected for the job and hasn’t looked back; she is doing exactly what she trained for, excels at, and unconditionally loves. Shea Hunter followed suit and took on the responsibilities of NEWS Program Director, and is still in the position to
The past twelve months have brought other well-deserved accolades Tracy’s way. In March, the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership (CVNL) rewarded her commitment and service at the 3rd Annual Heart of Napa Awards with the Excellence in Leadership Award. Linda Jacobs of CVNL, had this to say, “I have gotten to know Tracy during the last four years that CVNL has operated in Napa County. This award is presented to an executive director who has demonstrated excellence in leadership and whose vision has inspired meaningful and lasting change benefiting the organization and community. The list of nominees for Heart of Napa was a group of very dedicated leaders who on a daily basis have much to consider.”
Linda Jacobs added, “The strategies implemented by Tracy and the NEWS team, address the immediate needs of survivors, create pathways to safety and healing in a trauma informed and survivor led manner, to ultimately create a change in the culture to prevent abuse from occurring in the future. Tracy has been successful in building partnerships, writing successful grants, designing and implementing programs that have positive outcomes and make a significant impact in the lives of survivors. Tracy has channeled her passion and dedication to respond to the issues that NEWS was founded to solve and has done a remarkable job leading and sustaining the organization.”
Humbled by the recognition of CNVL and Napa Valley Marketplace, Tracy was quick to take the spotlight off of herself and shine it on others who have also made important contributions through their leadership. She said, “It’s nice to be recognized, but it’s also difficult because I see all the great things being accomplished by others. I’m lucky because I get to be the face of the program.”
During our interview, we learned NEWS Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse is not solely for crisis response regarding abuse; NEWS is an integral support for the entire community when it comes to life-altering events that impact all of us, such as the 2014 earthquake or the recent fires. With 27 employees and 15-plus volunteers, the volume of knowledge is invaluable when it comes to immediate emergency response, as well as follow up support. Many who work with NEWS have had a life experience that adds to their awareness of what is happening, and how to best address the needs of an individual, an entire family or the community-at-large. It is yet another example of the spirit of Napa Valley; we are here for each other, no matter what. We are always better together.
For survivors of an abusive situation, removing themselves is just the beginning—it takes a leap of faith to ask for help. What happens after that? NEWS, established in 1981, is a confidential support system. The staff and volunteers of NEWS are available to anyone in need, regardless of economic status or their location within the Valley. NEWS is here for locals from American Canyon through Calistoga, to protect the survivors and family members in need, provide a safe house, clothing, and food. Some people have escaped a bad situation with only the clothes on their back. Families receive support for as long as it takes for stability to be created. A step-by-step approach helps foster independence and groom survivors to create their own path to success and safety.
Tracy knew there was progress to be made by addressing the root causes of abuse, educating young people, and helping them learn valuable life-coping skills before bad habits take hold. NEWS works diligently to create programs to do just that. One of the programs Tracy is working on, NEWS in Sports, is based on a study funded by the NFL. NEWS is in discussions with little league and other youth sports—hoping to integrate the program which will become another tool the advocates have to help teach young athletes about positive and protective relationships, how to address problems as they arise, and teaching the importance of seeking assistance.
NEWS (or any nonprofit entity) could not accomplish their goals without the support of community service groups and their volunteers. North Napa Rotary has taken NEWS under their wing. Tracy told us there were so many people doing their part to support the mission of NEWS, but some individuals were outstanding in their contributions. “Tom Webber, in particular, is a huge support system for us. He is priceless to the safe house director. We work very hard to keep every room looking nice. Each day I walk through the safe house, I ask myself, ‘If I had to sleep in one of these beds, would I be comfortable?’ and the answer is always ‘yes.’” People often have their own rooms; the communal kitchen is a very busy place. Most of the time, families cook and eat in shifts, and it works out well.” Tracy said. The safe house will soon gain six beds, and a separate addition, will allow accommodations for men. A new section for families who may have special needs of various sorts will also be part of the safe house upgrade.
Emotional and economic stability are the foundations of self-sufficiency. Equally important is a supportive network of caregivers for working mothers and fathers; a flexible and/or family-friendly work schedule, relieves an unwelcome stress. Tracy was blessed to have understanding and supportive supervisors while her family was in their formative years. She was allowed to work flexible hours and she was allowed to bring her child to work. This may be a more common occurrence now than in the past, but not common enough. Such a consideration isn’t always possible, but if it is, and you are an employer…your flexibility might make all the difference in someone’s life. At NEWS, work schedules fluctuate and a parents needs are accommodated, making for an ever-important family and work balance.
NEWS employees are in it for the long haul, expending their efforts to improve the plight of others in need of protection, counseling, assistance information and no doubt—a hand up. Employee ‘turnover’ in the office is low, even though, as Tracy said, “This is emotionally exhausting work.” As one must imagine, great challenges bring great rewards. When a client makes it through the minefields of abuse, escape and recovery, then creates a stable life, this is the reward for anyone associated with NEWS cases. Because of the support received from NEWS, the success rate for those entering the program is quite high. With this in mind, further efforts to combat situational homelessness and advocating for—not only a higher minimum wage—but a livable wage for all, are at the forefront of Tracy Lamb’s current agenda. She can see the big picture, and she is doing something about it.
There is a long list of boards and committees that boast Tracy Lamb as a member. Her experience is wide and her opinions are thoughtful and forward thinking. Of all the things Tracy has done in our town, becoming Executive Director of NEWS was Napa Valley’s most beneficial. We are thankful for Tracy and are honored to call her our friend––as well as our October highlight—Napa Valley Marketplace “Community Leader.”
If you, or someone you know, is in need of confidential help, Tracy and the staff at NEWS will be there for you; they will hold your confidence and help guide you to rebuild a stable and secure life in the way that works for you, without judgement.
Help Line 707.255.NEWS (6397)
1141 Pear Tree Lane, Ste 220, Napa
NapaNEWS.org | 707.252.3687