A fond farewell: musings by Ron Borngesser Posted: November 21, 2016 Updated: December 12, 2016

Forty-two years ago, when my time serving in the United States Navy came to an end, I knew I wanted to continue to serve people. In a way different than being part of the armed forces, I wanted to care for others, build systems that would give people a better life, and continue to do my part to ensure America remained a place of opportunity.

I found my way to community action. OLHSA, A Community Action Agency, was founded in 1964 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. Back then, OLHSA was less than 10 years old, I was in my twenties, and I sought to settle down and make a difference where I was raised, in Oakland County.

My journey with OLHSA began in the human resources department, and I was quickly hooked. Yes, I was hiring people and managing benefits for employees who worked on a very different ‘front line,’ but I was also falling in love with the real change that happened for people after OLHSA became a part of their life. The work we collectively did made sure parents had access to early childhood education for their children, that those living in drafty homes could find some comfort even without the ability to pay for home improvements, and that individuals were given tools to learn saving and budgeting skills, plus earn matched funds to do things like save for their first ever down payment on a home. Really, each of these things, representing just three programs of dozens, was changing people’s lives.

Fast forward to today. I’ve been CEO of OLHSA for 18 years. The team I’ve assembled to lead by my side has been integral in the growth this agency has seen, and the progress it has made. We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of people feel less of a strain because of the balance of their bank accounts. We’ve fought for and earned millions in new funding, allowing us the space to create programs our communities in urban Pontiac and rural Howell, and those in between, specifically and desperately need. We’ve grown with the times and evolved from seeking grants to administer services to seeking grants that allow for a continued revenue stream.

We’ve survived political changes, funding cuts, elections, sequestrations, social movements and more. Together. The people at OLHSA are part of OLHSA for all of the right reasons; after 42 years I can assure you of that.

OLHSA’s strength wouldn’t have been as solid, our growth not as accelerated, without the partnerships we made with Oakland and Livingston Counties. From day one in each area, we’ve had unwavering support from each of these local governments. I want to thank the leadership in both counties personally for the partnership and the progress that stemmed from many years of working together.

And so, I head off to my next adventure, one of family, football and traveling. I leave knowing I’ve done meaningful work here, but only because of those around me and the passion they showed each and every day to help those around them. The simple community action mission to help people and change lives will live on through the work that will continue at OLHSA until the day OLHSA is no longer needed.