After a 23-year career with Chautauqua Striders, Executive Director Deborah Kathman will retire at the conclusion of this school year. She has served as executive director since 1993, a position she has thoroughly enjoyed.
"It is hard to know where the years have gone. The opportunity to work with and learn from so many great people, including staff, board members, tutors, coaches, mentors and students has been a wonderful experience. The Striders organization's growth throughout Chautauqua County was a team effort and is something we can all be proud of. I will miss the day to day activity and camaraderie, but I leave behind a great administrative team who is ready and capable to take Striders to the next level."
During her tenure as executive director, Kathman has nurtured what began as a grassroots Jamestown track, field and tutoring initiative and developed an impressive array of mentoring, outreach and afterschool programs through additional partnerships with numerous school districts and community agencies throughout the county. Under her leadership, the basic foundation of tutoring for area youth expanded to programs serving students from kindergarten through high school. A significant milestone was the development of an intensive academic tutoring and mentoring program that was incorporated into the school day at Jamestown High School when Striders assumed the SAFARI project.
Current Striders Board President Rob Liebers, who is a long-time board member, said Kathman has strengthened and diversified the organization during her tenure.
"Deb has helped to enhance the athletics component of Striders while growing the mentoring and tutoring programs. She has worked hard to provide the board with data on program successes to back the investment made by our funders."
Striders will conclude its 34th year of service to the greater Chautauqua County community this year, and the nonprofit organization has grown significantly through successful grant awards from federal and state agencies and foundations as well as United Way allocations and gifts from private organizations.
"Debbie's creative approach and collaborative thinking has guided Chautauqua Striders from a $100,000 agency into a $1 million dollar organization that is recognized and respected throughout the county," said Rosary Kolivas, longtime board member and past president. "I am proud to have been included on the journey of Chautauqua Striders under Debbie's directorship. She has skillfully guided our course in an ever-changing climate of funding criteria and guidelines from various grant sources without compromising the Striders mission to mentor and guide youth through education, advocacy and athletics."
The cornerstone track component of Striders has served to attract area youth into an innovative program that combines athletics with academics by encouraging students to become involved in both track and tutoring. With the expertise and leadership of the Track Club Committee, Kathman oversaw the expansion and enhancement of Strider Field in Jamestown, an endeavor that included and relied upon local foundations and numerous community partnerships.
"Strider Field has earned a reputation as a premier facility in the sport of track and field across the country. Its enhancement is a significant accomplishment of which Deb can be proud," said John Zabrodsky, another long-standing Striders board member and past board president. "It is a source of pride and has a prominent presence in our community. Strider Field is home to numerous athletic and musical events, bringing in hundreds of visitors from the state and region throughout the year."
Current board Secretary Ellen Ditonto summarizes Kathman's role as executive director of Chautauqua Striders with the following statement: "In my three years on the Striders board and most recently as the board secretary, I have worked closely with Deb on a number of initiatives. There is no one who is more passionate about Striders than Deb. She has provided exemplary service for 23 years to the organization. Chautauqua Striders has grown into a model not-for-profit and is the envy of many other organizations. Deb has provided the leadership and the vision to make Striders what it is today. Deb leaves behind a legacy of excellence and service and the community owes her a debt of gratitude for a job well done."
The Striders board of directors will honor Kathman at a reception later this month.