As the Executive Director of Beginnings, Inc. and Board Chair of Trinity Farms Center for Healing, Paula Eppley-Newman has a lot on her plate. But what she prides herself in more than anything is her family and giving back to the community. “I’ve always considered myself a professional volunteer because I’ve either been volunteering or working in non-profits most of my professional life.” Paula is also what many would call a servant leader – someone who takes the traditional power leadership model and turns it completely upside down.

Paula and her husband are blessed with a blended family of eight children, 17 grandkids, and more sheep, goats, and alpacas than you could easily count (each with its own name). She lovingly refers to herself as the “crazy goat lady” and has harnessed the healing power of animals to help others. Books are her other love, and when asked what recent read she would recommend, she pointed to Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers.

Beginnings and the HUB

Beginnings was established in 1951 as an Early Intervention provider, but since then, it has expanded and diversified its programming to include Parents as Teachers, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Parent and Child Together (PACT), and, most recently, the Community Care HUB (HUB), to meet the needs of the region. Beginnings is now part of the HUB as a Care Coordination Agency that employs HUB Community Health Workers (CHWs).

Paula works closely with HUB CHWs and even participated in CHW training so she could better understand the role of her employees.  “CHWs work hard. They want to make an impact. They’re out there in the community trying to find out all of the resources they possibly can,” Paula said. “The reason I felt so passionate about becoming part of the HUB is because everything the HUB stands for is the philosophy within our agency.”

COVID-19, the community, and gender equity

Like many nonprofit agencies, Covid-19 has changed the way Beginnings operates. “It has challenged us but hasn’t impacted us in a negative way.” One bright spot is their recent transition to using a ‘coaching model’ with parents as opposed to a ‘clinical model’ for Early Intervention services. This is something they’ve wanted to do for several years, but Covid and teleservices gave them a kick start.

“It’s been quite successful because it’s giving parents more confidence to work with their children between appointments,” Paula said. “One of the things that this pandemic has taught us is what’s important in life, and I’m hoping we retain that lesson once the dust all settles.”

Despite the good, Paula has recognized the negative ripple effects of the pandemic first-hand. Beginnings did lose staff members because of Covid-19, and it was simply because women had to make the difficult decision between working and staying home to help their children with virtual school. What she sees locally is happening on a global scale. Due to Covid-19, women are currently leaving the workforce at 4 times the rate of men, and because of this, Paula recognizes that our society has a lot of work left to do to address gender inequities in the workforce.

“If men were leaving at that rapid of a rate, something would be done about it,” she said. Although Paula has observed baby steps of progress over the years, she still sees that women are often expected to bear the bulk of parenting responsibilities and, therefore, often advance at a slower rate in the workforce.

Empowering the next generation

If you get to know Paula, you’ll quickly see that her story is an inspiring one – she did not seek a higher education (in nonprofit leadership) until she was 42, and she uses that knowledge to support her staff in a way that empowers them to be leaders. “The last 10 years I’ve been working really hard to make sure our agency grows, but also to make sure our people grow with it,” Paula said. “I’m all about empowering people to do their job by giving them a chance to try new things.”

Paula recognizes the need for change and adaptation in the nonprofit sector. And with that, she recognizes the need to give younger generations the opportunity to step into community leadership positions.

“The next generation is our future. I want to be able to walk away from work, sit in a sheep field, and know that all of the hard work we’ve put into this agency and the community is going to continue on.” It may look different than how she would do things, but that’s the beauty of it, according to Paula.

Click here to learn more about Beginnings, Inc. or to donate.