VOL. 133 | NO. 140 | Monday, July 16, 2018
Youth Villages' New Board Chair, Jimmy Lackie, Believes in the Process
By Don Wade
A lot has changed since 1984 when James “Jimmy” D. Lackie first became involved with the forerunner to Youth Villages. Spence Wilson, CEO of Kemmons Wilson, Inc., had asked Lackie to assist on a capital campaign at Dogwood Villages. This was two years before Dogwood merged with Memphis Boys Town to create Youth Villages.
Back then, there were 40 young people being served – 16 girls and 24 boys. And only about a dozen staff and five cottages. The campaign raised $1.6 million, which built a school, gymnasium and two more cottages.
Now, as the newly named chairman of the board of directors at Youth Villages, Lackie is helping oversee a national nonprofit organization headquartered in Memphis that has more than 3,000 employees and serves almost 27,000 young people annually. Bill Giles, CFO and executive vice president of finance and IT at ALLDATA AutoZone, will continue his role as vice chairman. New York Times bestselling author Vanessa Diffenbaugh will take on the role of board secretary, and H. Patterson “Pat” Ritz, CEO of Footwear Specialties International, will continue to serve as treasurer.
Lackie is founder and president of River Street Management, an investment and management services company. He also is co-founder and managing partner of Employee Stock Option Fund. He has served on the Youth Villages board since 2005, including past leadership positions as vice-chairman and secretary, as well as chair of several successful capital campaigns. In 2015, Lackie received the Youth Villages Clarence Day Legacy Award, which recognizes those people who shared philanthropist Clarence Day’s legacy of steadfast dedication to children.
So Lackie knows he has taken on a huge responsibility. He says has two objectives.
“One big part is just not screw it up,” he said with a laugh. “And two, to maintain the standards.”
Youth Villages employs programs that involve intensive work with the child and family, as well as a focus on measuring outcomes; keeping children in the community whenever safely possible; and providing accountability to families and funders. With locations across the U.S., Youth Villages’ continuum of programs includes intensive in-home services; residential treatment; foster care and adoption.
Lackie says YV is uniquely suited to produce better outcomes for children and notes that over the years randomly controlled trials have demonstrated the effectiveness of the work.
“The caseworkers really are the backbone of Youth Villages,” he said. “They don’t have as many cases as they have to manage in the public system. They’re equipped to have better outcomes.
“You’ve got to give tremendous credit to the board and previous board chairmen (most recently Bryan Jordan, president and CEO of First Horizon National Corp., served as chairman 2013 to 2018) for exceptional leadership. We’ve continued to grow and the number one mantra we adhere to is being able to deliver outcomes, children being successful and leading a productive life.
“It’s just like any business or company, you have to have dedicated and passionate people on the front lines.”
At the highest level the outcomes have resulted in former children served by YV returning to work there with a PhD or going to become professionals in other fields, including law and finance.
“Very gratifying,” Lackie said.
A solid economy has helped with further fundraising success, including the addition of the $22 million in-treatment facility “Bill’s Place.”
Challenges, however, remain.
“It’s tough finding employees,” Lackie said. “(Social work) is not one of the higher areas of interest for college kids and our pool (of recruits) is not as deep as it used to be. The competition for excellent employees is out there. It’s part of having a vibrant economy.”