This month, we’re featuring an interview with Jeffery Vaughn, Executive Director of HUB care coordination agency, Community Action Partnership of Cambria County.
Jeff started his early career working in the child welfare system as a worker and a supervisor, and it was some of the most challenging work he’s ever done. He remembers watching fellow employees turn over at high rates. In fact, child welfare employees’ average length of stay is generally 18-24 months nationwide. Jeff stayed for eight years.
“If you can do child welfare work, you can do anything. That kind of work you have to emotionally detach yourself from the work to be effective,” Jeff recalled. “I had to remove children from homes and go to court, but I still had to connect with families. That work really molded me into knowing how to engage with clients today.”
Now, as Executive Director for Community Action Partnership of Cambria County (CAPCC), Jeff reminds himself of that early work every day when working alongside colleagues and clients.
A seat at the table
Jeff is a big proponent of community-wide collaboration, and that’s what attracted him to the Community Care HUB. It’s not about who gets credit; it’s about providing the needed service, Jeff says. “CAP doesn’t always have to be the agency that does everything – but we want to be at the table. We want to be a part of the team and a part of the discussion.”
Most people know Community Action Partnership (CAP) programs, but they don’t know that county CAP agencies are often the ones administering them. “When you’re an umbrella agency, people don’t always associate the programs with the organization,” Jeff says.
The programs and services that CAPCC administers are diverse and include Early Childhood Programs, PA Pre-K counts, WIC (women/infant/children) programs, medical assistance transportation, utility assistance, fuel and housing assistance services, and more.
Simply put, the mission of CAP is “to improve quality of life by offering advocacy, services and support.” Jeff says his team works to empower the individuals they’re serving so that they can learn how to be their own best advocates. Joining the Community Care HUB and adding two Community Health Workers to their team is an extension of their mission and a way to collaborate with community partners.
Servant leadership and flipping the script
Jeff has his master’s in social work (MSW) and is also a Licensed Social Worker (LSW). Despite his years of education, he attributes his training in servant leadership as most beneficial to him day-to-day. “When you have a position where you can influence people, you can use it positively or negatively,” Jeff says. “I’d rather be a coach than a boss – I’d rather show someone what to do instead of telling them what to do.”
While many organizations are set up in a triangle format with the Board of Directors and Executive Director at the top, Jeff believes that the frontline employees – those in direct support roles – should be at the top. “They’re the ones carrying out the mission, and they’re the ones that matter. The Board and ED go behind the scenes to support what they do.”
Jeff agrees with the premise behind the book by Jim Collins, Good to Great. “Some places had leaders that were bigger than life, but when those iconic leaders left, everything plummeted,” Jeff said. “When servant leaders leave, however, the organization continues to do well.” That’s because the team is empowered to carry on the work. Jeff knows that the work of CAPCC will continue on to the right tune after he retires because servant leadership has become an integral part of his team’s culture.
Focusing on the person in front of you
No matter how busy things get, Jeff believes in focusing on the person in front of him – whether that be a colleague or a client. “Oftentimes when people come in for services, they’re at the bottom of the ladder and they have nowhere else to go.” He promotes a “reach one, teach one” philosophy with his staff that puts the client at the center. “Focus on the client in front of you – and when you’re done, focus on the next client,” he says.
But it’s not just the client that’s important.
Employee recognition and appreciation are also critical to any organization’s long-term success, according to Jeff. In fact, this past year, CAPCC held their 55th Annual Awards Event to recognize outstanding employees for their length of service and commitment to the organization. This past year, fifteen employees were recognized for over 10 years of service. The longevity of employees’ tenure and their commitment to CAPCC’s mission is impressive and stands out in today’s world, to say the least.
Jeff is sincerely proud of his fellow CAPCC team members, and hopes that their efforts to improve community members’ quality of life never go unnoticed. They put the mission first every single day, Jeff says, and that makes all the difference.
Outside of work, Jeff enjoys staying active – which for him includes golfing, working out, and playing tennis. And at the end of the day though, his most important jobs are being a husband, a father, and a grandfather. Once he retires, he wants to be doing whatever his grandkids are doing!