Jeffrey Friedman, the executive director of The Retreat in East Hampton, is leaving the post after nearly five years.
Mr. Friedman, who lives in Northport, said the 160-mile round-trip commute was taking its toll. He will move on to overseeing Central Nassau Guidance and Counseling Services, a nonprofit mental health and substance abuse treatment center based in Hicksville, about 35 minutes from his home and family.
While the search for a long-term director is under way, Karen Ross will serve as The Retreat’s interim executive director. Ms. Ross is the director of nonresidential services at the nonprofit organization, which offers shelter and support to victims of domestic abuse and their families, as well as a 24-hour hotline for families in crisis.
“It should be known that The Retreat is in really good hands,” Mr. Friedman said. He commended The Retreat’s directors as being “the most progressive board” he’s ever worked for, and said that they, as well as the staff and volunteers, are working to find a way for him to stay on “in some capacity.”
“In general, The Retreat is just such an amazing place and the community is just so supportive,” Mr. Friedman said. He said he loved working for an organization “that can help people that are in crisis … people who are in life-and-death situations. To be able to pick up the phone … and someone there can help them get to safety? It’s amazing to be a part of that,” he said.
The Retreat has been thriving in difficult economic times by looking at problems “in a different way,” he said. It has been working with other organizations to provide help with mental health and substance abuse issues, which often accompany domestic abuse, and working with banks to help clients become more financially literate.
Ms. Ross mentioned, as well, The Retreat’s prevention work with men at risk of becoming abusive or who had already become so.
“Jeffrey has done wonders for The Retreat in terms of ensuring that we provide comprehensive services,” she said. “He’s surely leaving the agency in much better shape.”
It was Mr. Friedman who brought Ms. Ross to The Retreat: They had worked together at the Long Island Association for AIDS Care, and Ms. Ross followed Mr. Friedman—who’s worked at nonprofits for almost 18 years —from there to The Retreat two years ago. She has been working with Mr. Friedman to prepare to take over his duties, which he said he expected to wind up by the end of October.
Mr. Friedman said The Retreat had given him “an opportunity to be creative in terms of how to help people” and thereby to fulfill a vision. He hopes one day to be able to bridge the gap between domestic abuse and mental health and substance abuse treatment, sort of a hybrid version of his present and future positions.
“When you don’t look at a person as kind of one-dimensional or one-faceted, and look at them as a whole, wonderful things can happen,” he said. “We’ve seen an incredible amount of growth and success stories.”