How did you first become involved with NFCC?
I became involved with NFCC in 2010 when it was the St. Luke’s Center for Counseling and Life Enrichment. The Center was under the St. Luke’s umbrella, and as I recall, it was in the former ‘coffeehouse’ near the current site. The previousboard chair, Steve Lufburrow, was stepping down and so Linda Christians, a former clergy member of St. Luke’s and Amy Birchill Lavergne, the former Executive Director, asked me to take on the board chair responsibilities.
I felt compelled to accept for several reasons. First, I have personally embraced counseling as a healthy and productive undertaking for many years, and I give it a lot of credit during various stages of my life. I think my generation was one of the first to really utilize therapy while previous generations were perhaps less willing to do so. Today my son is a successful therapist, so I think it’s safe to say that I was (and still am) an advocate for the process and am supportive of making it more widely available to our community. It also seemed like a natural extension of St. Luke’s expanded concept of local ministry.
In 2010, I remember there were no regular board meetings and NFCC was really in its “early venture” stage. We worked to expand the board, set up regular board meetings, connect the staff with the community, establish an achievable strategic planand support our fundraising efforts by creating metrics to demonstrate NFCC’s success, such as how we were progressing in terms of counselor staff, number of clients served, etc. Wewere also fortunate to have a lot of support from St. Luke’s. We had a small budget then but were listed on their annual pledge card which was a very generous move by the SLUMC Board of Stewards in support of the Center.
NFCC has accomplished a lot since you served as advisory board chair. What can you share about NFCC’s humble beginnings that maybe something a lot of folks don’t know?
I was board chair from 2010-2012. During that time, we knew that as much as we valued the connection to St. Luke’s, that the name of our new organization was perhaps limiting in some ways. From the beginning, the Finnegan family had taken an interest and was involved in supporting the center. Over time, we wondered if they might be willing to allow us to name the center in Nick’s honor. Nick was, and still is, greatly loved by so many people in Houston. Celebrating his life and his memory by helping further the development of the counseling center has been so generous of Bill and Susan. When the family agreed to rename it The Nick Finnegan Counseling Center and ultimately have Jimmy McCartney (Nick’s uncle) serve as the next board chair, I knew the center was in good hands and moving in a positive direction. Again, this development was very meaningful during my tenure but I take no credit for it. In my opinion, this was a “God thing” and made possible through the graciousness of Nick’s family, and the Holy Spirit, moving everyone involved towards an optimal and meaningful result. That said, I feelfortunate to have witnessed this wonderful development play out.
While I was board chair, I was also honored to witness the strong engagement of Nick’s friends and contemporaries in the counseling center. At the time, they were young, all in their early to mid-twenties. My kids were generally Nick’s age, maybe a little younger so I honestly questioned their ability at that time to really be additive the counseling center. (Silly me…) A group of Nick’s friends approached the board and said they would like to host a Crawfish Boil in Nick’s memory. We did not have a lot of money at the time so I told them we could budget $5,000 to support the event. I was worried the counseling center would lose that money, but they ended up raising over $25,000 which was an incredible (and deeply appreciated) accomplishment! Seeing how capable and committed Nick’s friends were in supporting something that both honored Nick’s memory and truly benefitted the community, was incredible to witness. Shame on me for not having more faith in young people in general and especially in Nick’s friends who were so passionate and committed to the project and their friend’s memory.
Over time, Nick’s friends and his family have truly embraced the NFCC and I feel that and their consistent engagement and support has been a critical element to its success over the past 15 years. As mentioned, I am honored to have witnessed their love and dedication.
You and your wife, Clare, will co-chair our Gala in 2023, along with Carla and Cole Dawson, as NFCC celebrates its 15th year! What motivated you to chair this gala?
I think the four of us all feel a sense of responsibility and connection as we have all watched NFCC grow from what was once just and idea and a dream. All four of us (and please remember that Carla served as board chair from 2015-2017) have had the opportunity to play a small role in the Center’s success over that time. To see NFCC today, 15 years later… we are all pleased to share NFCC’s story and support it in this way. Our hope is that we can be additive in 2023 and can help bring in new donors to add to a growing list of steadfast supporters over the years.
On a personal note, Clare and I moved to Dallas in 2014 and moved back in 2020, so we have been working hard to become reconnected with organizations we love and finding new means of engagement in the community. (Moving was not the easiest thing to do in the middle of the pandemic…kudos to Clare for making that happen).
While in Dallas, I served on the board of Dallas Casa, and also as a CASA advocate, and felt a highly compelling call towardsthe work of the CASA organization. Clare was also engaged in several charities serving the underprivileged community in Dallas. Being back in Houston, we are hoping to find that sense of community connection again here. We are chairing the 2023 Tree of Life Gala because we are pleased to reengage with a cause in Houston that we have historically been passionate about. We also want to make sure that people who are lost and need help can obtain quality and timely mental health care, regardless of their income level. In fulfilling this need, I see the NFCC’s work playing a part in fulfilling the Kingdom here on earth so, in my mind, it is clearly deserving of our support.
What do you do to take care of your own mental health?
I try to be deliberate about ensuring there is balance in my life. For me, maintaining that balance involves seeing a therapist from time to time. As my life changes, I am always open to sitting down with someone who is trained in counseling. I know that realistically, 45 minutes will not fix all problems, and in therapy, you often need to commit to several weeks or monthsand in some cases longer. Reentering Houston has not been without its challenges. For me, going to a therapist is not an act of desperation. I seek therapy when I must deal with somethingthat is “pulling me in” but ultimately out of my control, or when I may not be seeing myself accurately. I know that time with a therapist is makes me better.