PERU — The newest member of the North Country Mission of Hope team already feels like a part of the family.
Michelle Besaw began her job as the organization's fundraising specialist Nov. 4.
"In three days, I just feel more at home than I have in any other job I’ve been in," she said at MOH-town in Peru Thursday morning.
Like Suzanne Charette's executive secretary role, Besaw's position is grant-funded, though she is a full-time employee, Executive Director and Co-founder Sister Debbie Blow said.
The Evolve Foundation — which, according to its website, "makes philanthropic grants and pursues direct philanthropic initiative" — awarded the mission a grant to cover Besaw's salary for three years.
"The reality is I’m not getting any younger and we need to sustain us and all the efforts that we’ve put into this program for the last 21 years," Blow said.
Evolve also provided a short-term grant for a consultant that helped the mission formulate what they needed the specialist to do.
"We had multiple wonderful candidates, but Michelle, from my perspective in the interview ... she was a perfect fit," Blow said.
Blow thanked the mission's grant director, Carol Herring, for her part in helping them add the fundraising specialist position as well as Coryer Staffing for donating their services to do screening and interviews.
"Much like the Mission of Hope, Coryer Staffing works to uplift the communities we serve," said Elizabeth Goerlitz-Coryer, CEO of Coryer Staffing.
"Coryer Staffing was honored to offer our non-profit executive search services to this cause."
Coryer Staffing Direct-Hire Recruiter Hillary Engstrom said the biggest part of her job is "creating partnerships and leveraging relationships that provide a foundation for our candidate's and client's continued growth.
"Our greatest partners are individuals who desire to serve our community — the passion and experience that Michelle Besaw brings to the fundraising specialist position will elevate the Mission of Hope to the next level."
Besaw brings a marketing background to the position.
A Plattsburgh High School graduate, she went on to attend SUNY Plattsburgh where she majored in public relations and studied some marketing and graphic design.
She spent multiple years working for Friendly's where she was the district marketing coordinator for nine restaurants in Northern New York, Vermont and part of New Hampshire.
Besaw then worked for the Whiteface Club & Resort in Lake Placid as an assistant event planner.
A former Peru Central cheerleading coach, she lives with her husband, Justin, and their son, 2-year-old Lincoln, in Saranac.
For Besaw, part of the appeal of the position was its location in Clinton County.
Lincoln was recently diagnosed with autism, so commuting to and from Lake Placid made it difficult to keep up on his services and appointments, Besaw said.
"I gave myself a year to find something that I would be really passionate about, something that would be in my field."
Besaw knew about the mission since she mostly grew up in the area and has friends who have gone to Nicaragua.
The mission is an established organization, so she knew it would be organized and set clear expectations for her.
And, she gets to do what she loves: graphic design and social media.
"Being able to share what the mission does, especially in this day and age, we need positivity in this world and people need to see it and I’m happy that I’m able to show more of what they do."
Besaw's big goal was to be sustainable for her family.
"I just want to be able to work my best and do what I love, but be the best mother and wife that I can be at the same time."
Blow called that a critical goal from the mission's point of view.
"We are about family and we are also about meeting the needs of many different families.
"One of the first things we said to Michelle was, 'Family comes first,' and if we live that because we believe that in who we serve, we also need to live that and respect that in our employees."
So far, every day has been a little bit different, Besaw said.
"I don’t know if I’ll ever get into a true routine because there’s so many different projects and that’s what I love."
Besaw's work will include meeting donors, giving presentations on the mission and new projects, and expanding the mission's social presence.
So far, she has been working on getting the mission on LinkedIn and Twitter, and revitalizing its Instagram account.
The mission's two biggest fundraisers include its annual golf tournament and color run which, with Besaw's reach and contacts, will hopefully grow, Blow said.
Besaw has plenty of ideas on what to add to the mission's fundraising side, but those are on hold until she gets her feet wet.
"Since I came on in November and December, these are the biggest giving months, so I’m very focused on getting us through this season and then, in the new year, just expanding on my ideas and getting ready for the next giving season."
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