June 13, 2015

Cindy Funkhouser, Advocate for the Homeless






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Meet Cindy:


Cindy is the President and CEO of the Sulzbacher Center; the largest and most comprehensive homeless resource provider in Northeast FL.

Before joining the Sulzbacher Center as the Chief Program Officer and then the V.P. of Health Services, she served as the Executive Director of Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry, a faith-based organization that provides emergency assistance for families in crisis.

She was named an “Ultimate CEO of the Year” 2015 by the Jacksonville Business Journal and is an Honorary Life Member of Florida PTA, was named PTA Volunteer of the Year 2002-2003 at Alimacani Elementary and was the recipient of the 2003 Kessler Mentoring Award.

In her first career, Cindy was a Sales and Marketing Executive for a Fortune 500 company for over 20 years. Cindy was the co-founder of a non-profit organization, Positive Kids, Inc. that dealt with bullying and violence in schools.

Cindy has a Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work and an undergraduate degree in Psychology. She was involved with public schools for over 10 years through PTA, SAC and Coaching. Cindy sat on the Board of Directors for the Sulzbacher Center for 5 years and currently sits on the following boards: Deans Council for UNF Brooks College of Health, Executive Committee United Way Agency Directors, Beaches Watch Board and Jacksonville Day Resource Center Board She has also served on the board for the Emergency Services and Homeless Coalition and on the Beaches Resource Center (Full Service School) Oversight Committee and on the BRC Foundation for 8 years.

Originally from the Washington, D.C. suburbs, Cindy moved to her home in Jacksonville 22 years ago with her husband of 33 years, Gene Funkhouser, and her two sons who are now 21 and 26.


Fierce Woman Cindy Funkhouser


1) What is one piece of advice you would give to a young woman wishing to find a career in the non-profit sector?


I actually have 2 pieces of advice:

1. Get experience in the for-profit sector first-especially if you ever plan to actually be the E.D. or CEO  of a non-profit. It is a business and you do need to understand business principals.

2. Work in the area of your passion-then it is never feels like a job.


2) Your talk is titled ‘Joy In Service.’ How do you find joy in your everyday service?


I am so very blessed that my job is my service so I get to do that full time but I also volunteer at church and on other boards. The real joy for me comes from interacting one-on-one with the people that you are serving. You always hear people say that they feel like they get way more out of volunteering then they are giving. I have always felt this way too. Helping other people-however you are accomplishing it is extremely gratifying.


3) When did you realize you wanted your professional career to be helping others?


I lived in South Florida during Hurricane Andrew (where I had a career in sales and marketing) and was pretty active in my church doing outreach work. We lived about 30 miles out of the epicenter of the storm and received some damage but nothing like the devastation of Homestead and south. Immediately after the storm, we loaded up a church van with water, supplies and tools and headed down into the hardest hit area. Nothing could have prepared me for what we encountered-miles of neighborhoods turned to rubble and when we drove down the very littered streets we were stunned to see people coming out of that rubble seeking our assistance. We continued this effort for months especially focussed on the migrant farm worker community. It was through this experience that  knew I needed to be working with homeless people moving forward so I immediately signed up to the Florida State Master of Social work program and worked toward that goal.


4) What experience or achievement do you take the most pride in?


Personally, it was the day I walked across the stage at FSU to receive my MSW, at age 42, with my Mom and family in the audience. I was the first person in my family ever to go to college. On a daily basis it is my staff at the Sulzbacher Center who accomplish miracles every day. And needless to say, I am extremely proud of my two grown sons who are both wonderful people.


5) When do you find the time to pursue your other passions outside of your role at the Sulzbacher Center?


You take time for the things that are important to you. I am currently devoting  a lot of volunteer time to get a Mental Health Ministry implemented throughout the Churches in my Beach community.


6) When did you realize just how significant your impact on your city of Jacksonville, Florida was?


The impact of the Sulzbacher Center as a whole is what is impactful. The first time I worked there and was privy to the statistics/outcomes was mind-blowing. That one agency is putting 580 people per year in permanent housing thus ending their homelessness and is serving over 512,000 meals per year and over 67,000 patient visits in our health clinics. The impactful thing is that every single one of these numbers is a life that we helped and possibly even saved. It is truly humbling.


7) What woman do you look up to as a role model in your career or life? What are the characteristics of hers do you most admire?


I have had a lot of great women in my life but I would have to say if I could only choose one that it would be Audrey Moran, who I worked for twice at the Sulzbacher Center. The most important thing that I learned from Audrey is that a good leader has to have equal parts of head and heart and that you have to be courageous. Audrey is one of the most courageous people that I know.


8) What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?


This sounds funny but I literally repeat it daily – it was given to me by another woman in my life who has been a wonderful mentor to me, Penny Christian. “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” This always reminds me that any challenging large project just needs to be broken down into smaller, manageable parts. Otherwise you can just overwhelm yourself.



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