After twelve plus years the Literacy Alliance of West Nipissing (LAWN) is looking for a new Executive Director (ED).
Nanditta Colbear, who has served in the position over the last decade-plus, is retiring.
For years she has been the face of the organization. Hundreds of learners have come through those downtown Sturgeon Falls doors and many have learned from what she and the non-for-profit had to offer.
But Colbear says she learned, too.
She says her biggest lesson has been understanding human trauma.
“Our learners have been and continued to be judged, without a doubt, within the boundaries of West Nipissing,” she says. “The rural learner here is very different to say even North Bay. This is a clientele who may have been isolated even before the pandemic because there is no public transit. A clientele who admittedly has lots of access issues. The only way to serve them, with success for them, is for the team to be transparent and completely understanding of the learner’s life and not judge them for who they are. Finding the resources that work for their at-risk life. That was my biggest lesson from day one. Do not think. Do not have preconceived ideas of every human being that comes through the building. Let it be and let it unfold while always being supportive. That is the formula that cannot fail.”
Though it may be a shock to some community members, it certainly isn’t a shock to the not-for-profit’s board.
Colbear says it has been in the talks since before the pandemic.
“My original plan, when I joined, was [to stay as ED] for about five years or so to turn the agency around, which we did,” she says. “But then I was having such a ball with the learners and the program and I had energy still.”
Colbear shares that over the last three years or so she has been grooming someone for a mid-management position as well as looking at the talent pool.
“The decision isn’t unexpected. We decided there’s never going to be a perfect time. So let us rip the bandaid off, and let us push. It’s a recruitment drive now. We’re shaking trees and hoping to get a bunch of applicants that the board can choose from,” she says.
Colbear says what they’re looking for is somebody who has management experience.
“In a non-profit the size of ours, the ED looks after human resources-related issues, legal issues, hiring and firing staff, disciplinary action, strategic thinking, all of these things are in the portfolio of the ED. It’s a small charity. You don’t have the funding to hire people. You’re looking for the full package,” she says.
Colbear says they’re looking for someone who has the savvy to find resources and line them up for the agency.
“It’s a simple organization. It’s not a huge, big corporation with unions. Ultimately it’s to find balance. […] Someone with the right attitude, with the right educational background, would do it,” she adds.
The organization’s success, according to Colbear, is measured on many criteria and not just numbers. She says for a new executive coming into the organization, they will have breathing room to find their groove.
“They’ll be able to understand what needs to be accomplished. It’s an agency doing very well provincially, and now we can look on how to improve it further, [during the pandemic], without having 20 learners coming through the door every hour on the hour.”
She says the doors are now open for new energy.
“New ideas. Youth. People who are excited to be serving their community. It is time for improvement. I think with everything that’s been happening we’ve learned what worked in the past is not necessarily what will work for the future. In other words, we don’t need another Nanditta Colbear. We need a unique individual, a person who brings dedication, passion and a desire to serve this community and the type of learner we have here in West Nipissing,” she finished.