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Episcopal Community Services Meet Clients ‘Where They Are’

NONPROFITS: Two Years Into the Job, CEO Elizabeth Fitzsimons Is Leaving Her Mark

Elizabeth Fitzsimons received the CEO of the Year Award in the Rising Star Category when the San Diego Business Journal presented its 2023 awards program on June 27.

Elizabeth Fitzsimons
Episcopal Community Services

Fitzsimons is chief executive of Episcopal Community Services.

The nonprofit serves the homeless, those addicted to drugs, young children (particularly those needing early childhood education) and those with mental health needs.

The organization interacts with 7,000 clients, “meeting them where they are,” Fitzsimons told the crowd at the awards ceremony at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine.

Strengthening Programs, and Finances

Fitzsimons, who is in her third year leading the organization, was nominated for her award by the ECS communications director, Adrienne Wilkerson.

Under Fitzsimons’ guidance and collaborative leadership, “ECS has experienced a profound transformation,” Wilkerson said. “Her strategic decisions have not only stimulated long-term financial performance but have also brought about substantial progress in our strategic operations.”

For example, Fitzsimons oversaw the opening of a new “safe haven.” In partnership with the city and county governments, the Community Harm Reduction Safe Haven serves up to 22 unhoused residents living with chronic substance use conditions. Clients are placed by Family Health Centers of San Diego.

The effort was recognized separately in SDBJ’s Healthcare Heroes Awards earlier in the year.

ECS operates a second Safe Haven in Uptown. The facility provides transitional housing and supportive services to chronically homeless single adults with moderate to severe mental health issues. Residents experience supportive communal living in an environment free of alcohol or drugs.

Separately, Fitzsimons partnered with a local developer to bring a much-needed early childhood development center to a planned affordable housing development at SDSU West.

“Her influence has led to increased brand recognition, community outreach and the fostering of a more inclusive company culture,” Wilkerson said.

“One of the key reasons why Elizabeth is a strong contender for CEO of the Year is her commitment to inclusive and authentic leadership,” Wilkerson also said. “Since joining ECS in 2021, she has intuitively inspired board members, donors and partners to support ECS in ways that align with their own values and strengths. Elizabeth has also championed professional development and leadership opportunities for people organization-wide, creating a sense of purpose and employee engagement.

‘A Trailblazer’

Wilkerson described Fitzsimons as “a trailblazer and dynamic leader, catalyzing remarkable transformations in every role she assumes. She guides ECS towards long-term sustainability, cultivating an empowering and equitable culture.”

Previously at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Fitzsimons elevated the chamber’s national profile through various partnerships and initiatives. During her tenure at Rady Children’s Hospital, she led a $220 million fundraising campaign.

“Through participation with numerous organizations, Elizabeth exemplifies deep community commitment,” Wilkerson said.

She is active with other influential community organizations.

Serving on the City of San Diego’s Board of Library Commissioners from 2017 to 2022, she played a significant role in the development of library services benefiting all residents.

Additionally, her tenure on the board of directors of the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank from 2016 to 2020, including key leadership positions, contributed to ensuring food security for thousands of people in the region.

IN HER OWN WORDS:

 

“I’m honored to be recognized by the Business Journal, and I appreciate the Journal’s practice of highlighting the positive impact leaders are making across our community. This recognition is a testament to ECS’ dedicated and innovative team, visionary board of directors, and the thousands of clients who put their trust in ECS.

 

“I’m grateful that this award brings attention to ECS and the critical needs – homelessness, addiction, early childhood education and mental health – that we’re working to address every day.”

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