Emerging Leader Lynsey Gagnon (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Emerging Leader Lynsey Gagnon (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Lynsey Gagnon: Her personal experience guides her

The social services director worked tirelessly to launch a cold weather shelter in east Snohomish County.

This is one of 12 finalists for The Herald Business Journal’s annual Emerging Leaders awards for 2023. The winner will be named at an event on April 13.

Lynsey Gagnon, 35

Executive director, Community Resource Centers, Volunteers of America

Lynsey Gagnon’s personal experience informs her work.

Gagnon, the executive director of Community Resource Centers at the Volunteers of America, was once homeless.

Forced to live out of her car, Gagnon utilized the same kind of services she now refers clients to.

“I had to figure out how to get gas in the car to go to work. How to keep a smile on your face and act like nothing is going on. That really taught me grit,” Gagnon said.

It was a “difficult, humbling experience,” she said.

Gagnon is a returning Emerging Leader candidate who made the Top 12 list last year, too.

Gagnon grew up in Snohomish County and graduated from Kamiak High School.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in business from California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.

In 2020, county officials asked the Volunteers of America to take over management of east Snohomish County’s cold weather shelters.

Gagnon rolled up her sleeves and got a shelter running in less than a month.

“I knew I had to step in because if we didn’t, it wouldn’t have happened,” Gagnon said.

“It was challenging, but I knew it had to be done. It means making sure people don’t die on the streets during the coldest months of the year,” Gagnon said.

“What is most remarkable about Lynsey’s efforts is that she accomplished this work within several weeks, rather than the usual months-long planning process,” an Emerging Leader nominator said.

The crisis arose when the previous shelter manager was unable to continue.

The city of Monroe and Snohomish County were searching for another organization to host the cold weather shelter.

The VOA stepped up to the plate.

Gagnon located a new site for the shelter and worked tirelessly to ensure it was staffed.

She created a collaboration between Monroe, the Snohomish County Human Services Division and the Medical Reserve Corps to “address this crisis,” the nominator wrote.

”Together with this multi-agency team, Lynsey secured a new location for the cold weather shelter at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds, providing a space with sufficient social distancing to accommodate both volunteers and shelter guests,” the nominator said. “She successfully advertised and secured enough volunteers to staff the shelter when it was open. She inspires leadership in other people, growing our area’s capacity to bring services to more people in need,” the nominator concluded.

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @JanicePods.

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