Family Service celebrates milestone at Spring Mill Manor

The nonprofit, which aids in housing, mental health services, counseling and more, has entered its 65th year

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Honoring the past, embracing the future: Family Service celebrates its 65th anniversary and remembers late CEO Audrey J. Tucker. Pictured are (from left) Joseph Bondi, president of Family Service Association of Bucks County’s board of directors; Susan Dreyfus, president and CEO of Alliance for Strong Families and Communities; and Dina Della Ducata, newly appointed CEO of Family Service. Samantha Bambino / Times Photo

It’s been a bittersweet year for Family Service Association of Bucks County.

On the one hand, the nonprofit served a record number of people — 30,807 to be exact — through services such as housing assistance, counseling and addiction treatment. But at the same time, it was in mourning. On Feb. 20, Audrey J. Tucker, who led the organization as CEO for 40 years, passed away suddenly but peacefully.

Despite the devastating loss, Family Service kept moving forward. It’s what Tucker would have wanted. Last Thursday, staff, volunteers and elected officials gathered at Spring Mill Manor in Ivyland to not only celebrate Tucker’s impact, but also Family Service’s 65th anniversary.

“Just to put that into perspective, Dwight D. Eisenhower was inaugurated as the 34th president when this organization started. So we’ve been around for a while,” said Joseph Bondi, president of the board of directors.

Bondi reflected on Tucker, describing the deep compassion and respect she exhibited for everyone she encountered, whether it was an addict seeking recovery or a new family at the Emergency Homeless Shelter.

“Those of you who knew Audrey knew that she had a relentless passion for her work. She was such a positive force within the Bucks County community. Audrey set a clear path for us to follow, and we will honor her memory by continuing to achieve the goals and the standards that she set for us,” Bondi said.

A brief video showcasing the mission of Family Service — to help people reach their fullest potential — was played. Speaking in the video was Marlene Piasecki, who served as interim CEO after Tucker’s passing. When Family Service first acquired the Emergency Homeless Shelter in Levittown, she said there was a rickety bench outside, nails protruding. While she and Tucker could have attempted to repair it, they installed a brand new one instead.

“For us, the bench represented doing the best we could for the persons that we were serving,” Piasecki said.

Bondi then provided some background on the vast history of Family Service, which was founded in 1953 by a group of Bucks County residents determined to help neighbors in need.

Though the nonprofit underwent a great deal of change and expansion over the years, currently boasting four offices, four community sites and 153 employees, a few key principles helped it not only endure, but thrive. These include ensuring the client is №1, recognizing that community partnerships are vital to success, maintaining respect for all, and offering a diversified portfolio of services.

In addition to reaching a record number of people in 2018, Family Service expanded its opioid use disorder Center of Excellence, one of 50 in Pennsylvania, to support more than 400 people in their journeys to recovery. It also started an intensive outpatient drug and alcohol program, partnered with St. Mary Medical Center and Pennsbury School District to offer counseling for students and families, and opened two new family units at the Emergency Homeless Shelter.

The afternoon continued with the distribution of Family Service awards by Deborah Van Aken, first vice president of the board of directors. Corporate Citizen of the Year was given to NFP, whose Warrington office has partnered with the organization since its first Drive for Youth Golf Outing in 2000. Bristol Township was awarded Family Builder of the Year for assisting with funding through the Community Development Block Grant for several important programs including in-home parent education for low-income residents.

Finally, Allan Faykosh and his daughters, Elizabeth and Ava, were the recipients of the Audrey J. Tucker Family of the Year award for their utilization of Family Service programs. In 2015, the girls were placed in foster care after Allan’s ex-wife overdosed in front of them while he was at work. He missed Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthdays with his daughters, but was determined to gain full custody. After participating in counseling at Family Service, he was able to do just that.

“Through the help of Family Service, we’ve accomplished so much. My relationship with the girls now is better than it’s ever been,” he said. “Thank God for having this agency here because without them, I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now.”

A keynote speech was given by Susan Dreyfus, president and CEO of Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, one of Family Service’s longest partners. Dreyfus discussed the importance of nonprofits, which she called a “vital third sector,” or “social sector.” According to her, it’s organizations like Family Service that are able to positively impact poverty, education, racism and health.

“I have been in this work for a very long time, and I am the most hopeful that I’ve been in my entire career that our country truly has the ability to have the kind of breakthrough results we want to see to change these trajectories,” she said.

In her opinion, in a time of mass shootings and protests, the answer lies in seeing the humanity in others, and treating all people with respect, just as Tucker did.

“Even if someone’s life is very different than yours, understand the context in which they live. It’s no longer a question of us asking what’s wrong with someone. A better question now is what happened? And how can we together help people move onto different trajectories in their lives? Because at the end of the day, all people very much want the same thing,” Dreyfus said.

The event concluded with a few final words from Bondi, who introduced Family Service’s new CEO, Dina Della Ducata.

“Although we served a record number of people in 2018, again almost 31,000, our work is far from being done. The needs around us are great, more of our programs have waitlists,” he said. “We can and must do more.” ••

Visit fsabc.org for more on Family Service Association of Bucks County.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com