When Greg Henderzahs ’68 was downsized in 2009 after 39 years at American Commercial Barge Lines, he wasn’t ready to retire. He chose instead to apply his business skills to leading local nonprofit agencies, first at Camp Quality Kentuckiana and for the last five years at the Center for Lay Ministries in downtown Jeffersonville. During that time, he has helped the agency focus on what it does best – a food pantry and a halfway house for women. Now that he’s closer to age 70, the time is right for retirement, although he’s still “not ready to do nothing,” he said.
In his time as executive director of CLM, Henderzahs has learned a lot about the community and the vast need among its less fortunate. He has done his best to streamline the operations of the non-profit agency so it can effectively help those who deal daily with issues such as hunger and recovery from addiction. He treats its clients with compassion, learning their names and their stories, and sometimes helping out of his own pocket.
“Working at ACBL for 39 years, it was just completely different,” he said. “I wasn’t aware of things like poverty, homelessness, addiction, the need for halfway houses. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. Then I got here, and I really feel like I’ve made a difference. I hope I have made a difference.”
The Center does indeed make a difference. In its last fiscal year, the food pantry served nearly 20,000 people, from bags of food that can be prepared without cooking for those who are homeless to providing a supply of pantry staples to those in need. Its Bliss House and Bliss House Too help women recovering from addiction by providing stability, boundaries, addiction recovery services, and faith support.
Henderzahs also has learned much about the value of volunteers. He can’t run the agency and offer its services alone – nor can the budget afford to pay people to staff all of its positions. So it relies on about 75 volunteers – who man the food pantry, serve on the Bliss House Committee, and serve on CLM’s board of directors. He has come to see that such help is essential to the success not only of his agency but to the country at large.
“Volunteers are the heartbeat of America,” he said. “If we don’t have volunteers to do the many things that volunteers do, I don’t know how we as a country can do what we do. Volunteers are so important.”
Financial support and food donations are important too. ACBL has become a valued partner for the agency, as is Meijer’s Simply Give Campaign, which matches customers’ purchase of donation gift cards. Dare to Care in Louisville and the Midwest Food Bank in Indianapolis provide the bulk of the food donations, with local churches, organizations, and individuals filling in the gaps.
Henderzahs’ leadership focus is to run the agency like a business as much as possible, but with a difference. Its resources come from donations and grants, not from selling or manufacturing things. But like any good CEO, he knows who to tap to provide the necessary help, whether the mayor or the sheriff’s office or a local paving company to help with snow removal. And he’s not shy about asking his friends and former classmates to pitch in.
“A lot of folks I reel in to help,” Henderzahs said. “I coaxed them. They knew I needed help, and I knew they had the skill sets and abilities to do the things I needed.”
For example, Dave Nole ’68 drives the Center’s truck to pick up food donations from Dare to Care, Carl Koetter ’68 trains the volunteers, and Mike Lankert ’68 serves on the board – to name a few.
As he plans for retirement in November, he intends to continue serving on the City of New Albany Parks & Recreation Board, the New Albany Planning Commission, and the St. Vincent de Paul Society at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, his parish. He may even pick up a few more volunteer opportunities, but it won’t be at the Center, as much as he loves the people there.
“My replacement needs to be able to manage things without me being around and without people coming to me and saying, ‘Greg, what do you think,’” he said.
Henderzahs and his wife of 48 years, Patricia, live in New Albany. Their children are alumni, Kim (Henderzahs) Arnson ’90 and Dr. Kevin Henderzahs ’93. Their grandson Ben Arnson is a 2017 graduate and grandson Jack Arnson is a junior.
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