BY PHIL CUSTODIO
Clarkston News Editor
Lighthouse of Oakland County is merging with another non-profit group, but will continue to be a beacon of hope in the community, leaders say.
“We believe bringing our organizations together will offer a broader and stronger response to economic disparity that will greatly benefit those we serve,” said Ryan Hertz , CEO of South Oakland Shelter, SOS, which is merging with Lighthouse. “I am truly excited to take on this new role.”
Hertz assumed leadership responsibilities for both nonprofits on Jan. 14. He will serve as acting CEO of Lighthouse indefinitely while a merger plan is finalized.
“I think the merger is an exciting ‘next chapter’ for Lighthouse,” said Susan Ebeling of Lighthouse of Oakland County. “Ryan brings a passion for serving those in need, and certainly recognizes the importance of the Lighthouse operation in Clarkston.”
Lighthouse North, 5850 Dixie Highway, has operated in Clarkston since 1998.
The leadership change and planned merger come after months of discussions about the benefits of joining forces and the planned departure of CEO Rick David, who led Lighthouse for 3.5 years. His last day was Jan. 10. The boards of both organizations approved the plan for Hertz to become acting Lighthouse CEO and for merger talks to move forward.
“We are pleased to welcome Ryan Hertz in this new capacity,” said Lighthouse board chair John Townsend. “Under his leadership, SOS has made great strides. Long-term, we look forward to a stronger combined organization that improves the quality of services we provide, expands our service area and streamlines operations. This is a win-win-win for SOS, Lighthouse and the entire community.”
All current staff at SOS and Lighthouse will continue in their roles; current compensation and benefits will be retained for all employees. There are no immediate plans to alter any programs, and a name for the joined organizations is still being determined.
“The ultimate goal of joining forces is to create a larger, more robust and multifaceted organization to focus on human services and a stronger response to poverty,” Hertz said. “This plan will enable us to have a larger impact in our communities and better situate us to target the higher-need areas of hunger, homelessness and housing.”
The Clarkston community’s contributions over the years to Lighthouse’s food pantry on Dixie Highway has been inspirational, he said.
“It’s really a beautiful thing to see a community so dedicated to responding to the economic needs of their neighbors,” he said. “We hope to use Clarkston as a model to inspire other communities around Oakland County. We hope to learn from it.”
Lathrup Village-based South Oakland Shelter and Pontiac-based Lighthouse of Oakland County have more than 75 years of combined experience serving impoverished metro Detroiters.
Goals for the combined SOS and Lighthouse include:
• Respond to the immediate basic needs of those experiencing poverty;
• Work with economically challenged households to establish longer-term stability;
• Address the environmental factors that reinforce economic disparity, such as food security, housing affordability and access to transportation; and
• Engage, educate and empower our community to ensure all people have access to a better quality of life.
Since becoming CEO of SOS in May 2010, Hertz has worked with his board and staff to provide emergency shelter, rental assistance, affordable housing development, supportive service solutions and crowdfunding technologies to help thousands of displaced people get back on their feet.
Hertz also serves as board president for Spero Housing Group and the Alliance for Housing, board chair for the Lathrup Village DDA, and as a board member of Chabad of Greater Downtown Detroit and BBYO Michigan Region.
SOS was founded in 1985, and provides housing-first programming, operates an emergency shelter with 67 partner congregations, and offers supportive services to homeless and displaced people throughout metro Detroit, moving them toward long-term stability.
To date, SOS has provided shelter for more than 12,500 homeless children and adults. SOS also owns and operates Spero Housing Group, a subsidiary nonprofit dedicated to developing and operating high-quality, affordable and supportive housing as well as HandUp, a community crowdfunding platform serving 100+ homeless service agencies and their clients across the United States. For more information, visit southoaklandshelter.org.
Founded in 1972, Lighthouse of Oakland County helps individuals and families move from crisis toward self-sufficiency.
From its headquarters on Woodward Avenue in Pontiac, and a second location in Clarkston, Lighthouse provides five-day-per-week food pantry, serving 28,500-plus people annually; financial literacy; life-skill building, job search and networking; senior services; and affordable housing programs including two-year transitional housing for homeless women and children; as well as other programs to prevent homelessness and build responsible home ownership. Learn more at lighthouseoakland.org.