Maureen Devine-Ahl

"Home is not a safe place for everyone, especially those in isolation who are victims of domestic violence."
Maureen Devine Ahl, Interim President And Ceo Doorways

Maureen Devine-Ahl is Interim President and CEO of Doorways in Arlington

I didn’t expect to be leading a nonprofit through a pandemic in my first gig as an interim CEO. (Yes, you read that right—first-time CEO.)

It has been equal parts rewarding and challenging, and will certainly change me forever.

I’ve always worked in nonprofits and believed in their importance, but the past few weeks have underscored just how much they are the unsung heroes of our communities, working around the clock to problem-solve and serve.

Consider every problem you are solving for your household—securing food, paper goods, health care, safety—and recognize that the people maintaining our shelters, food banks, clinics, educational systems and emergency hotlines are addressing those same challenges for thousands.

We are frontline responders. Without our community’s safety net, it’s scary to imagine how much worse this crisis could be.

Home is not a safe place for everyone, especially those in isolation who are victims of domestic violence. Shortly after the governor’s stay-at-home orders went into effect, Doorways’ shelter, in the middle of the night, welcomed a new client who had come directly from the emergency room, where they had been treated for injuries associated with an assault.

This progression of events is one that we see often at Doorways, but amid the pandemic, that emergency room visit added a whole extra level of stress and uncertainty for the survivor.

Many have asked me if I regret being in this larger-than-expected role; if I’ve wanted to run for the hills.

The answer is no. I’m grateful to be useful during this time, helping to sustain a lifeline for survivors, as well as shelter and supportive services. All of these are more critical now than ever.

I appreciate everyone who has helped me learn what I don’t know. I’m thankful to be surrounded by an amazing team of dedicated staff and volunteers. I’m humbled by our residents, who are sharing resources and modeling the very best of what it means to be a community.

I’m blown away by Arlington’s collaborative nature, especially among our safety-net partners.

Some days are very hard. I fear getting the call that a staff member or resident is sick.

But many more days are awe-inspiring. I see tremendous innovation and generosity fueling our communities right now. I hope that everyone finds ways take part. It helps brighten the dark days, and give me hope for who we will all be on the other side of this.

To anyone in need of support, shelter and services, know that you are not alone. Doorways, Inova FACT, the Arlington County Police Department and our community partners are here to help you. Call our 24/7 hotline, 703-237-0881.


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Categories: Covid Chronicles
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