In this issue of “Get to Know Your Directors” we are spotlighting LW Board Member, Sheilah Clay, President & CEO of Neighborhood Service (NSO). Sheilah just recently announced her retirement from NSO.
Leadership Women: Looking back on your time at NSO, what is your proudest moment?
Sheilah Clay: My proudest moment was the opening of the $50M historic development I led creating permanent supportive housing for 155 homeless adults and the NSO headquarters in the same facility. This is the largest development of its type in the State of Michigan. Since its opening in 2013, the NSO Bell Building has housed 345 adults ending their life in homelessness. Many have returned to school, workforce and re-established their relationships with family and loved ones. Though the housing is permanent, the average length of stay is three years and then our tenants move into the larger community with the skills to be successful.
LW: What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
Sheilah: The biggest risk was probably my proudest. Embarking on the housing development was a significant financial risk for the NSO with investment of resources with no guarantee against failure. This was our first housing development and it was massive. I have always believed that fear of failure is the greatest enemy of innovation, so I charged forward. This project was developed during the largest economic crisis in our country in the city of Detroit that was experiencing massive economic and political challenges (unemployment, foreclosures, auto company bailouts, political leadership crisis, etc.). I benefited from a Board of Directors who trusted me and a community and key stakeholders that believed in the vision.
LW: Retirement….or re-wirement? What’s in store for Sheilah Clay in 2019?
Sheilah: I view retirement as stepping away from full-time work, not life. As I step away from the heavy lifting and stress of leading a multi-million dollar organization, I will remain connected. I will serve as a consultant to complete a second housing/shelter project NSO is developing, which the Board of Directors is naming after me – The Clay Center. I will also offer to return to the school district where I served on the Board of Education for 10 years to continue my work to close the achievement and opportunity gap for students of color. I also plan to continue serving on boards, like Leadership Women, that are meaningful to me and where I believe I can add value.
Learn more about Sheilah by reading her Bio.