There’s a lot of need in Clark County. But there’s also a lot of good, and the good that Clark County Community Services does for hundreds of families is work put forth by eight staff members, numerous volunteers and, at the pinnacle, Executive Director Debbie Fatkin.
Getting into the director’s position wasn’t easy, though. Fatkin was volunteering at Community Services in 2012 when she was deeply affected by an onslaught of events: the deaths of two family members, she lost her run for the Clark County Board of Education and, on top of a couple other happenings, her five children had grown up and she had an empty house for the first time.
“Tish Shupe, who’s on the board (for Community Services), asked me to lunch and I said no. I knew what she wanted to talk about,” she said. “I had enough on my shoulders with what was going on at the time. She said she just wanted to meet and get some ideas from me, and I said yes. And here we are.”
Though she was hesitant to take the position in 2013, she’s now five years in and knows it was the right move.
Fatkin was born in upstate New York and moved many times growing up and when she married her husband, Mark. His job brought them to Winchester, and she said she fell in love with the town—the downtown area with the raised sidewalks, the character of the old buildings and its perfect size. She’d taught preschool since 1997 and taught in Winchester before running for the school board.
“When you lose an election, there’s a lot of emotions. There’s relief and anger. God had a bigger plan,” she said. “This place healed me. It got me out of the funk from the empty nest thing that I didn’t think would affect me. It did.”
When she was a volunteer, she worked to organize and clean, helped in the donation room and with food orders.
“It was Trish’s plan all along—that I would fall in love with being here and being with the staff. And she was right,” she said. “You wonder ‘how in the world do you go from being a preschool teacher to being the director of a non-profit.’ All I can say is it’s just God. This is where God wanted me to serve. I love to volunteer. It was just natural. I love helping people.”
Community Services provides a box of food once a month for 1,300 Clark County families, utility assistance and housing assistance for homeless. They work to provide items for those who’ve lost their home in a fire, they do community partnering with other agencies and schools, and mental health court and drug court.
“If they have a need for their client, they reach out to us. If I can’t find the help they need, I refer them to other resources. But for the most part, I can help,” she said.
Fatkin loves interacting with clients and seeing how thankful they are for the services they receive.
“There’s a lot of hurt for people to come in here. There are families working to make ends meet, single moms, grandparents raising their grandkids. It’s hard for people to come in here and ask for help. So we treat everyone with compassion,” she said.
She also loves the interactions with customers at C.C.’s Closet, the organization’s thrift store, and seeing their excitement when they find an unbelievable bargain.
There are lots of events through Community Services throughout the year, like Stamp Out Hunger in May, and many that happen around the holidays, like Empty Bowls, Turkey Trot, Good Giving, Operation Happiness and the organization’s Christmas open house. Fatkin said none of it would be possible without their volunteers.
“Even with all that happening in that short window, we still have to feed those 1,300 families. I can’t say enough about (the volunteers’) giving hearts and willingness to help. We have 80 to 100 volunteers that give us about 1,000 hours. This building would not run without them,” she said. “A volunteer will make an impact on whatever non-profit they choose, even if it feels like it’s not making an impact.”
From being a volunteer herself to moving into the director’s position, Fatkin’s work has opened her eyes to the unexpected, like the generosity of people with low income.
“Some of our poorer neighborhoods give us more food than the wealthier neighborhoods,” she said. “We think it’s because they’re aware of us. If you’ve used us, you’re aware of us.”
She said one life event can bring people to them who would never expect to need their services. She recalled one woman seeking help with her utility bills. Fatkin said her husband’s hours had been cut back at work and they had car trouble, and they were desperate for help with keeping their heat on. As she was talking with her, she began to cry, and she put her hand on her knee and said, ‘That’s why we’re here.’
“(Our work here) keeps you busy. It makes you feel good that you had a small part in helping somebody else,” she said.
Though she has a lot to keep up with now, her goal is to keep Community Services thriving so it can continue helping Clark County families in the future.
“I love Winchester. I love my community,” she said. “It’s not my hometown, but it’s my hometown.”