There is no shortage of hardworking nonprofit professionals in and around Denton County. In fact, many of these pros share a building with us. To recognize our partners and discuss how they Serve Denton, we decided to launch a recurring series about our Local Leaders.
Toni Johnson-Simpson: Executive Director of Denton County Friends of the Family
Briefly describe your organization and the way it serves Denton.
Denton County Friends of the Family (DCFOF) is dedicated to providing compassionate comprehensive services to families and individuals impacted by domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault.
What made you personally want to work in the nonprofit realm, and what
drew you to this opportunity Denton?
I grew up in a family where community service was always reinforced. I think my paternal grandmother and a maternal aunt were "informal social workers" long before I recognized feeding people and helping others was not an everyday occurrence in everyone's life.
So I was introduced to service at an early age, but it wasn’t until college that I realized this could be my career! Working with victims of domestic violence became an option for me during my junior year in college when I was introduced to Denton County Friends of the Family. I guess you could say the light bulb came on and ignited a passion for service in this particular field.
What challenges have you faced that you didn’t expect?
I think some of the greatest challenges are always the shortage of funds to provide the stellar level of services needed to really affect change in people's lives. While we live in such a generous community, we also have a rapidly growing community, so the needs and opportunities for giving are great.
How has your approach to leadership changed because of your current position?
That's a good question. My leadership style has always been one of collaboration and accessibility. I enjoy knowing each employee personally and having those one-on-one conversations. When I came to DCFOF 12 years ago, we had around 30 employees and three locations, and by the end of 2017, we will have more than 70 employees, 600 volunteers annually and six locations.
The distance and varying schedules force me to have more email communication, which can feel less personal. For that reason, I have to make sure that my face-to-face time with staff and volunteers leaves positive impressions, and that my emails convey the intended impact. I never want to be a looming or distant figure for my team, so it's important for them to know they can always reach out and connect to me when they need.
It’s also very important for us to stay focused on our opportunity to be of service and support to our clients, who are experiencing crisis and trauma. I appreciate that families trust us at their most difficult time. As a leader, I am always focused on our responsibility to meet the needs of our community while exhibiting excellent stewardship.
In what ways do you hope to improve even more, so that you may
serve Denton as much as possible?
I hope that I can continue to grow and develop as a visionary. I always want to position DCFOF to continue to be a leader in our community and an example of excellence. We try hard to look ahead and position ourselves for approaching trends.
One of the best things I can do is to continue to recruit, hire and train smart, passionate unafraid people to serve as a voice for those whose cries have been silenced. Whether volunteers, interns or staff—I get to be a part of a team where we make a difference every single day. So, even on the difficult days, it's worth getting up and doing it all over again.
Author: Tyler Hicks, Serve Denton Communication Committee Member