Lounsbury brings decades of experience in human services to her new job as director of Community Caregivers

— Photo from Lee Lounsbury

Lee Lounsbury, now at the helm of Community Caregivers, said, “I’m about teamwork, building consensus. That’s the culture I want to continue and reinforce.”

GUILDERLAND — Lee Lounsbury grew up in a family with “a culture of giving back and serving others,” she said. She went on to a career helping children in need while also raising her own.

In December, Lounsbury began what she said will be the last job in her 40-year career — as executive director of Community Caregivers.

“This is my community that’s been good to me,” said Lounsbury of Guilderland. “This is a way to give back.”

The not-for-profit Community Caregivers was founded 25 years ago to help people remain in their homes by providing non-medical services like shopping, household chores, or providing transportation to doctors’ offices.

Community Caregivers currently has about 100 volunteers serving nearly 400 clients, Lounsbury said, and is working to increase both to “meet more of the need in our community.”

Based in Guilderland, Community Caregivers, in addition suburban Guilderland, serves the rural Helderberg Hilltowns of Berne and Knox, suburban Bethlehem and New Scotland, and urban Albany.

Volunteers provided over 4,000 service contacts with clients in 2019, Lounsbury reported, and volunteers drove more than 20,000 miles with clients.


“Hard work”

Lounsbury was raised in Saratoga, the second-oldest of four children. Her mother, Dorothy, taught elementary school. Her father, Albert, worked with 4-H for cooperative extension. Her parents, who have both died, were very active in the Methodist Church.

Her mother was one of 11 children and her father one of four. Lounsbury and her siblings were close to their extended family, she said. Lounsbury had been born as the middle child with an older brother and younger sister. Later, a foster brother was added to their family.

“My mother was his teacher,” she said. “He’d been in care since he was a toddler … My mother talked to all of us,” Lounsbury recalled, before her foster brother became part of their family. “It just felt natural,” she said.

Her foster brother, who died last month of cancer, had a history of trauma. “It’s hard for kids abandoned by their birth family,” she said.

Lounsbury also said, “Foster care is what I’ve worked in most of my life.”

Lounsbury was an active girl. “I grew up before Title IX,” she said, referencing the 1972 federal law that, among other things, was meant to level the playing field for women in sports. “Girls were only allowed to play basketball and field hockey,” she recalled.

She quipped that it was odd, since girls were thought to be too fragile for other sports, that they played field hockey without shin guards. “Maybe that’s the root of feminism,” she said.

At 16, the youngest age at which youth are allowed to work in New York State, Lounsbury got a job at Central Market.

She hasn’t stopped working since.

After graduating from high school, Lounsbury studied human services at Hudson Valley Community College and then went on to get a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University at Albany. She later earned a master’s degree in public administration from Russell Sage College in Troy.

Right out of college, Lounsbury worked for “a couple of nonprofits,” she said, and then went to work, for two years, at the Rensselaer County Department of Social Services on child protective cases.

She noted, “It opened my eyes in new ways to the needs of families … It is hard work but usually only gets media coverage when something bad happens.”

She also said, “You do your best but it never feels like enough.” She noted that it is impossible for a social worker to solve the “bigger issues” like poverty and racial inequities.

In 1982, Lounsbury went to work for the state’s Department of Social Services on its child-abuse hotline. Although, in that job, she wasn’t on call at night, she said of the problems she had dealt with during the day, “It was always in your head.”

Work on the hotline involved listening to a caller to see if the issue rose to the level of needing investigation. Only about half of the calls did so.

A caller, for example, might say, “So-and-so buys McDonalds too often for their kids.” So, said Lounsbury, “You’d explain, while that might not be the best nutrition, it’s up to the parents.”

If the complaint was severe enough to merit investigation, Lounsbury would take a report and send it to the county where the child lived.

She stayed with the department of social services — which came to be called the Office of Children and Family Services — for 26 years, until 2008, becoming a supervisor and moving into child protective training.

“I had some of the best colleagues and bosses I could hope for,” she said. “The work is hard but, when you do it with dedicated folks all working for the good of children,” she said, it is satisfying.

Lounsbury has a “big reaction,” she said, when she hears comments about state workers, as if their jobs are easy.

She felt part of a team, she said, its members sharing a mission of working toward a common goal.



Along the way at work, she met Jack Bailly, an attorney in a different office, who became her husband. They raised two children: Amanda Bailly, now 31, an independent filmmaker, focusing on human rights in the Middle East, and Nick Bailly, 24, a recent graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst who lives in Boston and works in commercial insurance.

Amanda Bailly “is back and forth between Beirut, New York City, and here,” her mother said. Several years ago, she made a film, “8 Borders 8 Days,” which tracks the efforts of a single Syrian mother and her two children to travel to freedom in Europe.

“In 2008, my dad came to live with us,” said Lounsbury. Her mother had died in 1989 of cancer.

“Dad had a fall in 2008 and came to live with us in Guilderland,” said Lounsbury. “He lived with us for four years until we couldn’t care for him anymore.” Her father died in 2014.

“I learned what an honor it is to care for an aging family member with increasing needs and also what a huge responsibility it is to be a caretaker,” said Lounsbury.

She said, through the experience of caring for her father, she also learned the importance of self-care.

Over those years, Lounsbury did some consulting work but ultimately felt she “needed to get back to work outside the house.”

In 2010, she became the associate executive director of the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies, which advocates for legislation and funding.

Three years later, she became the executive director of Welfare Research Inc., a not-for-profit based in Albany that provides technical assistance and training to both public and private human-service agencies.

“I could get creative,” Lounsbury said. “It was an agency that had lost a lot of business and I was able to build it up.”

She was at the helm of Welfare Research for five years, leaving in 2017 to return to consulting work.


“Last job”

In December, Lounsbury started her job as executive director of the Community Caregivers, an organization she had long known of.

“My husband was a volunteer here. I live five minutes away. I always went to their gala,” she said. “I heard they were looking for a director … This will be my last job.”

She called the work “a good fit for my life.”  She is working part-time so she can spend time with her husband, who is retired.

“It’s an incredibly dedicated staff and board,” Lounsbury said. “Without a director for awhile, they kept moving forward and provided services.”

The staff, all part-time, includes an office manager, a volunteer coordinator, a program coordinator, a nurse who does intake interviews, and a fiscal manager as well as three consultants. One consultant is a bookkeeper and the others are “working on the Medicaid redesign, to keep people out of hospitals with non-medical services,” said Lounsbury.

These include services like providing meals or transportation to doctors’ offices, which Community Caregivers has long provided.

The organization is also working on the Village Movement, with one underway in Bethlehem, which helps residents to age in place.

Lounsbury said of the staff, “They’ve been gracious and welcoming.”

She went on, “I see my job as finding out what the staff needs. The staff is the heart of the organization. We rise or fall together.”

Lounsbury concluded, “I’m about teamwork, building consensus. That’s the culture I want to continue and reinforce.”

She added, “We always need more volunteers, and anyone in need non-medical services should contact us. It really is what our motto says — neighbors helping neighbors.”

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