Marching Onward "It makes me feel really good to see so many people want to help people who have HIV and AIDS. SAN has a tremendous community behind it. Letting go of some of that is hard, it's kind of bittersweet." Susan Fabrikant is stepping down as Executive Director of Spokane AIDS Network June 30th. Susan Fabrikant A by Erika Prins fter 31 years serving Spokane non-profit organizations, Susan Fabrikant could stand a change of pace. Fabrikant recently announced she will step down from seven and a half years as executive director at Spokane Aids Network, prior to which she spent 24 years advocating for sexual assault victims at Lutheran Community Services. Non-profit work is not for the faint of heart, and many who enter the field burn out fast. 31 years of daily service to others is downright impressive. But Fabrikant is ready to take her bow. "You know when it's your time and I think it's good to listen to that," she says. "This is a good time to move on." The Spokane Aids Network (SAN) provides encouragement and resources for people living with HIV/AIDS, and provides prevention education to the public. Fabrikant was new to HIV/AIDS advocacy when she took the job and relished in the chance to explore new territory. "When this opened, it just felt like this was the right spot for me to land," she says. SAN board president Paul Tiesse says when Fabrikant was hired, she immediately began building up SAN's financial backbone. "She came in and really took charge and got it up and going pretty strong," he says, working long hours to extend the small organization's donor network and community presence. "She's leaving our organization as strong as it can be in this economy." Fabrikant's hard work will continue to benefit SAN long after she step down says Barrie Ryan, long-time SAN volunteer and ex-Board president. Ryan was on the hiring committee that selected Fabrikant for the job. "Her management style is to give the controls over to her leaders," says Ryan. "She has brought on a very competent and strong staff and strong directors," says Ryan. Because she has built a solid leadership team, the organization will continue to flourish after she leaves, he says. Fabrikant's work at SAN extended beyond business savvy to building a bond of common purpose between clients, volunteers, employees and donors. "She has the ability to manage [controversy] effectively," says Ryan. "She is able to really focus on what's important." Fostering such a complex set of relationships is a daunting task, say Fabrikant. She advises her successor to listen well to those around her. Tiesse praised Fabrikant for bravely engaging difficult issues unfamiliar to her. "People that know her know that she's extremely passionate about SAN and would do anything for it. She has compassion for the clients that it serves," says Tiesse. "She can really put herself in their shoes." Fabrikant will miss the camaraderie of toiling side-by-side with staff and volunteers. Staff water gun fights on hot summer days lightened the mood of often somber work, she says, describing the SAN house's atmosphere as warm and comfortable. She rattles off a list of neighboring businesses and dedicated supporters whose generosity has surprised her. She was moved by the care and ingenuity with which volunteers decorated for SAN's annual Oscar Night Gala fundraiser. "It makes me feel really good to see so many people want to help people who have HIV and AIDS. SAN has a tremendous community behind it," she says. "Letting go of some of that is hard, you know, it's kind of bittersweet." Now Fabrikant plans to work at her husband's Couer d'Alene psychotherapy practice. She hopes to carve out a slow-paced role, low-pressure for herself to decompress from her 31 years of tough work with non-profit organizations. She says her time at SAN has been a great journey. "I've made a lot of new friends," she says. "I've learned a lot." Q | Q View Northwest - Spokane Edition | June 2009 |