New executive director takes the reins at Vashon HouseHold

Chris Szala, an Islander who has worked in the affordable housing arena for 20 years, has been named the new executive director at Vashon HouseHold.

He replaces Sam Hendricks, who has headed the organization for about a decade and who has taken a job in Portland, Ore., where he’ll helm a small organization focused on international aid in Latin America.

Szala currently heads Com-munity House Mental Health, an agency that provides hundreds of units of housing to people with chronic mental health needs.

He’ll continue to work as executive director of the Seattle-based organization while heading Vashon HouseHold, board member Kim Nelson said. Jean Bosch, who helped to found Vashon HouseHold, has also begun working with the organization again, handling private fundraising and other parts of Hendricks’ job so that Szala can oversee project development and other duties, Nelson said.

“Clearly, with this arrangement, we needed to fill in some things,” Nelson said. “Jean’s got a long history with us and is an extremely competent person.”

Nelson said the organization was thrilled to find someone of Szala’s caliber to head the small Island-based nonprofit. She said the organization got about 75 applications from throughout the region and across the country but was determined to hire an Islander with experience in affordable housing development.

The board also realized it needed someone who could “jump onto a moving train,” Nelson said. “Chris certainly is that kind of person.”

Adding that there weren’t many applicants who the board would accept as a part-time director, she added, “This is an extraordinary opportunity for us with a very extraordinary person, so we’re going to take it.”

Hendricks leaves the organization after a period of remarkable growth; it now has five projects completed and two under way. It also has some big challenges, including water intrusion problems at Eernisse Apartments — a situation that has left some tenants angry with the organization and worried about mold in their units.

Hendricks, who announced his decision to leave the organization several months ago, said in a prepared statement that he was excited about his new job.

“This is a great organization that serves thousands of children in rural Guatemala and Mexico,” he said. “The job is a rare opportunity to work internationally and make a difference where there is great need.”

He said will travel in Latin America several times a year and hopes to involve his family in travel and volunteer work in the region.

Bosch said she believes Szala will be able to bring Vashon HouseHold to the next level.

“I think he’s going to bring even more credibility to Vashon HouseHold,” she said.

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