Leaders are rare, servant leaders are rarer still. Debora Matthews has been a vanguard for healthy and whole children and families throughout her entire storied career. Before her 17-year post as President & Chief Executive Officer with The Children’s Center (TCC), she temporarily held the role of Chief Operations Officer for TCC. She is the dedication personified. Having served the agency for a total of 37 of its 93 years of existence, the work is in her DNA.
She not only leads TCC but has been a key player within the mental health industry for more than a decade. In 2006, Matthews was appointed by Detroit Wayne County Community Mental Health Agency (now Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network) to help implement the evidence-based practice Parent Management Training – Oregon (PMTO) model. In May 2014, Matthews led the formation of the Wayne County Community Mental Health Collaborative. The 20-provider membership alliance from the behavioral health system, advocating for funding and programming for the county’s adult and children’s initiatives coordinated in Wayne County.
She also served on numerous boards in Southeastern Michigan. Some of which include: Alliance for Strong Families and Communities (Finance Committee), Michigan Federation for Children & Families (President-Elect 2016, Executive and Audit Committee Chair), Association of Accredited Child and Family Agencies, The Autism Alliance of Michigan (Treasurer 2009-2015), Midtown Detroit Association, Behavioral Health Professionals, Inc. (BHPI) (Board Chair 2009-2014) and CareLink (Member 2006-2014).
Matthews’ fundraising and friend-raising know-how is more than noteworthy, she helped write the book. During the 2009 Michigan Federation of Children and Families Annual Conference, Matthews presented “A New Twist in Lifelong Giving for Sustainable Funding,” the blueprint to leaving a legacy for your agency. During the 2007 Alliance for Children and Families National Conference, she presented “Igniting Donor Passion” focusing on mission-based fundraising as both a volunteer and staff. She doesn’t stay hunkered down in the C-Suite, managing with a closed door. She rolls up her sleeves and connects to keep the agency alive and thriving.
“The impact Debora Matthews has made in our community will last generations. Under her leadership, The Children’s Center has enriched the lives of thousands of children, parents, caregivers, and siblings of the children it serves. The passion Debora brings and the love she shares is already making our community stronger. And the individuals fortunate to know Debora, including me, are better people because of her,”DANIEL CHERRIN, PRESIDENT OF NORTH COAST STRATEGIES, LEAD FACILITATOR, MI BEHAVIORAL HEALTH & WELLNESS COLLABORATIVE, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR THE CITY OF DETROIT.
Her leadership and service has been well recognized and celebrated among her peers and contemporaries. The Michigan Minority Health Education Council presented Matthews with the “2016 Lula B. Pearson Humanitarian Award” for having a profound impact on those most in need in the Metro Detroit community. Other recent awards include the Michigan Chronicle’s “2014 Women of Excellence” (June 2014); the Michigan Chronicle’s “Who’s Who in Black Detroit” (April 2013), the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2011 Leadership Detroit Class XXXII (June 2011), and the EP Maxwell J. Schleifer Distinguished Service Award for her advocacy, dedication and commitment to those with special needs (August, 2011).
Her passion is more than professional, but personal, as she was raised in a home where abuse erased young smiles and silenced childlike laughter. As she grew, she learned to thread her resilient spirit with her hopeful heart into a quilt of warm wisdom that she used to lead with compassion and determination.
Matthew’s growth through adversity early in her years, her accomplishments in her life of service, and her extensive experience in multiple administrative, advisory, and executive roles make her highly qualified and recommended to provide guidance to any organization. Most leaders with as many accolades move onward early in their career to meet new challenges, find greener pastures with greater acclaim. However, Matthews’ humility and passion for serving children and families with us at TCC is as extraordinary as it is unusual in this age of industry.
Together, we are now at a crossroad – Debora and TCC. Where she has brought us this far, she now focuses on her own family that has supported her dedication to the work, the staff and the people we serve. Debora looks toward the horizon of retirement and vows to stand in another capacity for the agency that has brought her so much purpose as an advocate, defender, and friend.
TCC will be indebted to Debora for her unyielding spirit and her passion for the work as it is the foundation of our culture and the sets benchmark for leadership in our field.
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