Ozone House Executive Director Krista Girty Shares Her Journey

What first drew you to your work at Ozone House? As a new social worker, over 24 years ago, I learned quickly that Ozone House was unique. It was easy to see that they put youth at the center of their program design and approach. I was lucky to work for Ozone House for the first time 18 years ago when I got to do amazing work with young folks and staff for several years before I moved to the South and then to the West Coast. In all my years of doing this work, Ozone House made the most meaningful impact on the core principles that have guided my practices. It taught me everything about youth work and laid an important foundation early in my career. I will be forever grateful for my early teachers and mentors through Ozone House.

In 2017, I learned that our (Ozone House’s) former executive director was leaving after 17 years with the agency (she is a legend!), and I instantly wondered what would happen to Ozone House. It has had stellar leadership since our start over 50 years ago… so an ED transition was a big deal. I started evaluating my work and what this next chapter could mean if I applied. I knew that Ozone House was a place where I could do meaningful work. I also believed that I was well positioned with extensive experience that fit perfectly for an ED transition, a capital campaign, a building project and doing our day-to-day mission work. I have been back (in Michigan) just over two years. Leading Ozone House into our next 50 years is the absolute honor of my career.

What impact have you seen from the services offered at Ozone House? I get to witness the day-to-day successes in our work and hear countless stories from youth and families that have been involved with Ozone House. The web of connections with youth, staff, volunteers, donors and community partners is really hard to explain. It is truly a special place focused on youth needs and creating opportunities. Everyone tells a different story, from saving a life with a suicide intervention and providing immediate safety in our shelter, to helping a family reunify under difficult circumstances and providing the only warm meal someone might have that day. It’s knowing there are open doors to a safe place to build community and get off the streets, having an appropriate relationship with an adult, often for the first time, coming out to an adult and feeling acceptance and celebration— not rejection. It’s making a difference in each other’s lives to make this world safer for all.

What success stories stand out for you most? I want to give a shoutout to our entire community and everyone that continues to support our work! Our Capital Campaign has been widely successful, and we have moved into our new “Forever Home”! We made this success happen together.

What are your hopes for the future of Ozone House when it comes to future projects, programs and milestones? More beds. In our work at Ozone House, we continue to see an overwhelming opportunity to do better for young folks in collaboration with our community. I strive for a day when we never have to put a young person on a waitlist for a safe place to sleep.

What aspects of your personality and background make you successful as an executive director? There are many ways to do this work, and understanding systems nationwide has given me a broad perspective that helps me locally. As for my personality— I always believe that there is a way; I am resilient, loving, and intuitive. And I am incredibly dedicated to my work. I think my passion and experience is easy to see and feel.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job? Knowing that there is so much more we can do for staff and the folks we serve. I really struggle with how undervalued our field of work is… I wish we could take better care of everyone.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work? Working with youth! They teach me everything and keep me honest and moving forward.

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