NUTLEY, NJ - Katherine Carmichael, Executive Director of Nutley Family Service Bureau,  sat down for an interview via Zoom to discuss her role and give an update on the organization's  work during the pandemic.

Licensed social worker Carmichael, who holds masters’ degrees in social work and education, replaced former Nutley Family Service Bureau Executive Director Eileen Painter in September. Painter, who assumed the role of NFSB executive director in 2016, is now the assistant director at SUDC (Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood) Foundation in Roseland.

Carmichael, a certified fund-raising executive (CFRE) with an advanced certificate in executive leadership in the not-for-profit sector from the New York University Silver School of Social Work, said she looked at the community when thinking about taking on her current position.

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Prior to her appointment to NFSB as Executive Director, Carmichael was Executive Director at Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children of Mercer and Burlington counties. She also served in the past as senior director of operations at the YWCA Bergen County, where she oversaw all aspects of operations for the Aquatics, Health, Wellness, Childcare and Youth programs. Additionally, she served as senior director of Program Services and Outreach for the Princeton-Blairstown Center, and as director for Good Shepherd Services in New York City, where she oversaw extensive programmatic activities with the NYC Department of Education.

Carmichael has been in the non-profit and social sector for a little over 20 years. Her career began with social work in NYC with the schools in the South Bronx working for a community-based organization, according to Carmichael, similar to NFSB.

Carmichael said after doing some research she realized this is where she wanted to be. “I feel that we have a mission here supporting the whole community with the social service as well as the mental health counseling and working towards well-being – social/emotional well-being. That really speaks to me as someone who began my career doing that,” she said. “She added, “I saw so many people needing the services exactly in the way that NFSB delivers them to the community.”

She believes many people she worked with over the years could have benefited from an organization like NFSB, which offers mental health services, a food pantry and a thrift shop for those in need.

Carmichael’s last job was working with families that were “torn apart.” “I was really looking for some place where I could be involved in supporting families before they get to that point and really through our food pantry and the counseling that’s exactly what we do, we strengthen families,” she said.

She has joined the Nutley Clergy Fellowship and Nutley’s Business Collaboration Committee with Commissioners Thomas J. Evans and John V. Kelly II and Nutley business owners.

Carmichael, who resides in Princeton with her husband, said she finds Nutley to be a very welcoming and supportive community. “I really knew I wanted to come to a community that fully supported the organization and the work as well as trustees that I felt were truly dedicated to the mission,” she said.

There were a few challenges for Carmichael as she started her new position during the pandemic. “Some things are the same as coming into an organization brand new and some things you have to adjust. […] I feel extremely fortunate that I am following strong leadership,” she said referring to Painter and her predecessor Felicia Gardner, who also departed in January to start her own private practice as a clinical social worker/therapist.

Some volunteers and staff are physically at the Chestnut Street locations, some are still working virtually. NFSB’s clinicians see their clients through Tele-health, a software similar to Zoom and Facetime, allowing for face-to-face meetings through a smartphone, laptop screen or a tablet. “We’ve been able to provide all of our mental health counseling continuously through all of the shut down,” she said.

Nutley Family Service Bureau recently started virtual afterschool social and emotional groups for elementary and middle school students. NFSB’s clinical interns are facilitating the groups, which Joe Armentano, director of clinical services and programming, supervises. Carmichael said the groups filled up quickly; there is a waiting list. “I’m glad that people want to be in the groups but at the same time it speaks to that need that our children and youth have somewhere to go to process the stress that comes with being at home and not at school in a social setting and the anxiety of what we are going through,” she said.

Carmichael is already getting her feet wet with their 2020 Thanksgiving Initiative where the food pantry prepares baskets that include a turkey and all the fixings. This year they plan to make 150 baskets. People can donate to this drive by visiting their website and add their name in a food slot on SignupGenius. NFSB has also teamed up with Nutley Park ShopRite again for people to donate their free or purchased turkeys.

Due to the pandemic NFSB now holds their food pantry distribution outdoors. Their clientele has increased over 25 percent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Carmichael said according to Feeding America, a national hunger relief organization that supports food banks, New Jersey is looking at potentially a 50 percent increase in food insecure households. “We’re preparing to be here and support an even greater increase,” she said.

Carmichael wants to strengthen the services NFSB provides and wants to make sure they reach all those who can benefit from psychotherapy, the food pantry or the thrift shop. “I hope people in the Nutley community know about us and feel comfortable enough to come to us and know that we are here to support everyone,” said Carmichael.

This month NFSB will be sending out their annual holiday appeal campaign to those who have contributed before. In the near future NFSB will be looking at a new strategic plan needs assessment for the community. Immediate goals are making sure NFSB has what it needs to continue to serve the community through the pandemic. She said they are doing this by holding more food drives and continuing their mental health services. They will also look into more grant raising opportunities. “The pandemic has affected our fundraising. We had to cancel all of our special events this year but the community has been very supportive in making donations,” she said.

“NFSB is so unique, it’s really such a treasure,” said Carmichael.  

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