February 5, 2005
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer
Sure, it's nice that
Frederick E. Smith is beginning his job at ONE/CHANE at the
same time that the neighborhood organization is reworking its
strategic plan and setting new goals.
"But the other thing that would be even nicer is if the
sky opened up and a big pool of money came down to provide the
resources to do all of those things," Smith, the organization's
new executive director, said Friday. "These are all lofty
goals and visions, but there must be resources to actualize them."
As he finished his third week on the job, Smith said it is time
for his organization to refocus and get back to its roots - community
organizing and advocacy. But to do that, Smith said, ONE/CHANE
"One of my most immediate missions is fiscal accountability
for the organization," he said. "We're in dire straits
right now." So dire that next week's bill can't be paid?
"It's not that imminent," he said. "But
ONE/CHANE is a community improvement organization in north Hartford
that made its name as an advocate for community interests but
has most recently been involved in housing development. Last
March, the organization's board fired its executive director,
Larry Charles Sr., after it decided his tenure was too controversial
to allow him to continue.
But Smith isn't interested in all that, he said.
"We can always look behind us at what's been, but we have
to look forward to what can be," he said.
Smith, 53, is a South Carolina native who has been in Connecticut
10 years. A Bloomfield resident, he last worked as the director
of substance abuse prevention and education at ALSO-Cornerstone
in New Haven.
ONE/CHANE hired a consultant and held an executive search funded
by the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, executive board
president Terry Waller said. It interviewed more than 30 candidates
before selecting Smith, Waller said.
"He has the right temperament, the background, the skills
... and he has the experience and the rapport with funders," Waller
said of Smith. "He really has a lot of courage to take on
On Jan. 12, Mayor Eddie A. Perez, one of the founders of ONE/CHANE,
welcomed Smith to the job with a meeting at city hall.
"They've got some work to do in order to get back to the
work they were doing before," Perez said Thursday. "Going
back to their roots is really what they need to do."
Smith said his job began with an honest look at the books.
To operate as is, the organization needs between $300,000 and
$350,000, Smith said. To operate at a level Smith thinks appropriate
would take an annual budget of roughly $500,000, he said. He
would not, though, say how much the organization now has in the
So one of his jobs is to start knocking on doors that used to
be open, he said.
The United Way was a funds provider, but isn't anymore, he said.
It's time to re-establish a relationship, he said.
And, he said, it's time to be brutally honest.
"I can't do this in a vacuum," Smith said. "It
takes a board, it takes a community, and, third and foremost,
it takes resources."
"He's certainly correct," Waller said. "And
the funding community had it right. They understood that we
needed to restructure and to reorganize. So we're heading in
a new direction, and we're working on the major concerns [of]
"They understand exactly
what type of neighborhood we're in, and they understand they're
going to have to step in and help."
ONE/CHANE will hold a "meet and greet" session
for Smith on Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at its office
at 2065 Main St. And Smith will no doubt get the question again.
"People ask me, `Why did you take this job?'" Smith
said. "And I say, because it's a challenge. And, like I
said, it's my community, too."
"You know what? If not
me, then who?"
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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