Gordon Hazel retires as JCEO leader

PLATTSBURGH When Gordon J. Hazel walked out of his office last Friday, it was for the last time as executive director of the Joint Council for Economic Opportunity of Clinton and Franklin Counties. I was all choked up, said Hazel. He reacted to his own retirement just as he thought he would. After all, the helm of the not-for-profit organization was where he spent the last 18 years of his life, overseeing programs that help the underprivileged, from home heating assistance to food pantries and seemingly everything in between. The ability for the JCEO to help has been what had kept Hazel at his job and why he said he is so proud to have been part of the organization. Every day, a senior comes in who cant heat their house or theres the young, single mom who really needs help with paying rent and they get helped with emergency services, said Hazel. Ive always felt that Ive been really blessed to be become part of JCEO, because of what we can do. The organization has seen several changes over the years, including moving from its former run-down location on Montcalm Avenue to its current location on Margaret Street in 1992. However, some of the greatest accomplishments include the organization taking over the Franklin County Head Start program in 1998 and, most recently, when the organization marked the completion of White Pine Commons, its 32-unit affordable housing development that began in 2005. What began as a dream of this organization is now standing at the corner of Military Turnpike and Wallace Hill Road Extension as a monument to that dream, Hazel said of the $6.6 million project. We couldnt have asked for it to work out any better than it did and when we look back at the legacy of this organization, that might be it. Hazel said his immediate replacement, Jacqueline Skiff, who also serves as Head Start director, will help lead the JCEO in its mission until a permanent executive director is found. Jackie has all the skills and talent needed to keep this ship on course, said Hazel. Skiff had equally kind words to say of her friend and predecessor. Gordons leadership here has been exemplary, said Skiff. Im honored that I was asked to fill this position on the interim. Im committed to maintaining the quality services that he has set in place until we can hire a full-fledged executive director. As for what the future holds for Hazel? He said it will involve spending more time with his family over the next few months, including spending time in Myrtle Beach with his wife, Kathleen. The couple are examining spending their winter months in South Carolina when Kathleen retires from her post as executive director of the Senior Citizens Council of Clinton County in December. When the two are home in the North Country, Hazel said he wants to volunteer at the FitzPatrick Cancer Center at CVPH Medical Center. Hazel, who has pancreatic cancer, has been receiving treatment at the center for the past 13 months, leading him to want to help those who have helped him. Theyre such a bunch of warm-hearted, kind, wonderful people, said Hazel. I really just want to give something back to everyone from the receptionist to the doctor and volunteer my time there. And, I really want to stay involved in the community because its been so good to me. A hundred years from now, none of us are going to be remembered for the car we drove or how much money we had in the bank or even the houses we lived in, he continued. You will be remembered by the young child and their family that you helped nourish and grow and helped become a strong, productive citizen.

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