Lisa Strahs-Lorenc – Forced out—Identity Crisis Follows

In 1999, I had the incredible opportunity to join a newly created non-profit, the Long Island Works Coalition, that had recently been established through the Long Island Association under the direction of its president, Matthew Crosson. I created my new position, Director of Marketing, and joined the organization ready to launch this exciting and worthwhile cause of maintaining our young workforce here on Long Island. I joined a small staff of 2—an executive director and an executive assistant.  At the time, and on my first day of work, my Mom underwent a triple bypass and I began the position working from home. I was given lots of flexibility and I appreciated the understanding of my personal life challenges. I was in for an amazing and gratifying 11 years!

As time passed, I created a very thorough marketing program for our small non-profit. I created a newsletter, press releases, marketing materials for our events, and programs and fliers. After a year, I created a new position, Director of Community Relations, and the organization agreed to hire another marketing manager. In this new position, I became the voice and face of the organization. I began to create presentations to business organizations throughout Long Island—chambers, rotaries, Kiwanis and Lions Clubs.  I also begin working closely with Long Island school districts, creating and supporting advisory boards, and helping to create events. The job was always flexible and more than a 40-hour, 9-5 work day.

My last position in the organization was Director of Educational Programs, which fit all of the activities and day-to-day planning in which I was involved.

During this time period, my husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and again the organization was flexible with my personal needs. I was trained by the Ford Motor Company Fund to run Career Academies, and after 3 out-of-state training opportunities, I brought back the program and training materials to several Long Island schools.

In addition, our small staff of 4 was involved with our annual internship fair every January, attracting hundreds of high school and college students, in addition to Long Island companies seeking interns for the summer.

I attended all Board of Directors meetings and submitted minutes of the discussions. We continued to be a popular non-profit, offering programs for students and interns for companies. We were the bridge filling the gap between industry and education on Long Island. However, in the 11 years at LI Works Coalition, we had a very limited plan for raising money and maintaining our organization’s fiscal health. At one point, we partnered with Goodwill Industries, but that fell apart after one year. After my husband’s passing in 2009, I became even more committed since I had even more time to spend working. By 2011, the organization was floundering, trying to figure out sources of funding to keep it alive. On March 1, 2011, we closed our doors and said good-bye to LI Works.

As a result, and due to the identity that I had had for so many years, I felt like Superman. What else could I be? Everyone knew me from this organization. I had done so much networking. My LinkedIn database was huge and when I went to any networking meetings, everyone always said, “I know you from LI Works Coalition.” I was lost! I felt that I had lost another loved one. First my Mom in 2000, then my husband in 2009 and then LI Works in 2011. It was very hard for me. I didn’t know what job would be best suited for me after this one. I wasn’t even sure what I would enjoy or be good at. So, I tried a number of them. First, I tried a home-based business based on a marketing approach.  Then I tried a software company that worked with non-profits. Then I worked at a career school. Then I worked at a non-profit that worked with international students. Then I worked at a profit-making company that worked with the school districts bringing career programs for all students, especially those with special needs. Now I am working part-time for a not-for-profit foundation that provides financial literacy and education to people of all stages—from youth through retirement.

I have a long job history. I have owned 3 companies, have worked for 5 non-profits, and have worked in several different industries. However, if I were to look back on my record, the most traumatic event happened when I was no longer part of the LI Works Coalition. My takeaway from this is the knowledge that you always have to be open to change and be flexible about what may happen to you in your professional life. I still go to places who remember me from this organization, but now I am okay with it and it helps open up doors for me. I happily think back over the years and reminisce about the wonderful opportunities I was given to grow the organization and develop my own cadre of skills.  I still miss the important work we did and the cause for which I fought so hard! But it is like any other death—you learn to move on. It is always part of you, but you are not defined by it anymore.

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