By Chris Yaw
As you have certainly heard by now The Hyacinth Fellowship lost its founder, president, volunteer executive director, gifted spokesperson, and biggest supporter on April 1st 2023.
As a Board of Directors we have experienced this devastation in our own ways, filled with the bittersweet emotions of loss and pain yet of appreciation and admiration for a truly remarkable woman and a life well lived.
A recurring theme in our work is that of turning pain into purpose, transforming our trauma instead of transmitting it. We are trying to model these ideals as we move on from here with an enhanced resolve to do the work that had captured Maryann’s heart and continues to stand at the heart of our organization’s leadership.
I am humbled and even daunted to have been voted as the second president of our Fellowship at our most recent Board meeting, finding solace in the reality that I do not do this work alone but am dependent and helped to no end, by a very talented Board of Directors, Advisory Board, part-time staff, and of course you, our wonderful Fellowship whose stories of resilience, strength, and determination animate our imaginations and inspire us to do the work we do.
Maryann’s death, so untimely in many ways, was unexpectedly timely in others: she had just shepherded us through a significant name change, a substantial website revision, and laid the groundwork for even greater organizational performance in establishing our Board of Directors and Advisory Board, and shaping a network that equips us for growth and greater impact to a community that suffers in silence, is hard to reach, and hesitant to ask for help.
We, your Board, have many ideas and much energy for the work ahead, fueled in no small part by our desire to show our appreciation and love for Maryann. Vice president David Peters brings a wealth of wisdom and decades of pastoral care, expertise in moral injury and PTSD, and significant communication skills to our work. Our secretary, Kim Rice, brings organizational strengths and creativity to helping design and implement important programs for our The Fellowship. And our newly elected treasurer, Anita Grossman, harnesses 30 years of professional fundraising and enviable people skills to oversee financial and administrative tasks that help ensure few things, if any, will slip through the cracks.
Other board members, Mark Bourlakas, Michael Gentry, and soon to be added, Aaron Alexander-Bloch, bring much needed skills to the visionary and organizational tasks at hand, most notably those needed to continue with the research side of our work, ensuring our commitment to the scientific study of unintentional harm continues unabated.
Maryann, and her incredible faith in this work, embraced a ‘build it and they will come’ sensibility in hiring a part-time administrator, a bookkeeper, and contracting with a social media consulting firm to aid in our largest task, which is getting the word out. And she did so believing that our community, and those who are sympathetic to its work, will be attracted to support us with their time, talent, and treasure. Certainly we have more people contributing to this work than ever before, and, like Maryann, we stand in faith, believing that this work of compassion will grow and continue and touch ever more lives with each passing day.
Indeed, what drew me to this work and Maryann’s unique dedication to it was a shared vision for a more compassionate world. Indeed, we see signs of this all around us in the ways we increasingly care for the environment, pay attention to the suffering of the marginalized, respect the differences of others. We, your Board, are attempting to honor Maryann with our gifts and thank you so much for doing the same.
By all means may this occasion, the death of our founder and the celebration of her work, not pass us by. Please, reach out, spread the word, contact us, get involved, and join us more fully in this work of helping others as our founder has taught us to do.