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This Week’s “Employee Spotlight” features Bill Dowling, Employment Counselor a truly outstanding member of our Community Employment Services team.
Bill Dowling, Employment Counselor
“What is great about Jawonio, is the tremendous support and encouragement we receive to change and grow. "
Bill Dowling is known as “The Man on the White Horse” who is always there to save the day – or days and nights during the week for the people we support in Community Employment Services. For the past 18 years, Bill, has been an outstanding and dedicated employment counselor. He is a CASAC (Certified Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor) and a social worker. Bill can be counted on for his encouragement, compassion and professionalism at every turn.
Bill was born and raised in the Bronx. He had some serious family loyalty issues growing up – he was a diehard Yankee fan who idolized Mickey Mantle, while at the same time his father’s passion was for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Bill was an excellent multi-sport athlete competing in track, basketball and baseball. Growing up near Yankee Stadium didn’t just create a love of the game, it was a discovery for Bill where he found his passion to help others in his own backyard and the Bronx community.
Bill lives in Suffern NY with his wife Maria, (CEO of Rockland Jewish Family Services) They have 3 grown children. Their daughter is a flight attendant for Frontier Airlines; their oldest son currently works for ESPN and their youngest son just graduated from Ithaca College in Environmental Sciences.
Let’s learn more about Bill and the experiences that have shaped him along the way including Jawonio.
Tell us about growing up and some of the experiences which led you to Social Work?
When I got out of Marine Corps, I went to work for my uncle, who had a beverage business in the Bronx near Yankee Stadium. In the early 70s, you couldn’t help see and feel the poverty and the vulnerability in the neighborhood. My uncle was concerned about the business, and I thought we should see how we could help change some things if possible. We met with police officers, and asked them how we could work together to improve conditions for our community, and especially improve communications between the 44th precinct and us.
What happened to the business during this time?
The 70s in New York were really tough. And then, along came the black out of 1977. The blackout, and the aftermath devastated our neighborhoods and businesses, including our store which never came back. Of course my uncle was devastated as well and it was just a terrible time. Shortly after that, I moved to Rockland with the hope that the business might come back…but it never did.
What were your first career experiences in human services?
During my senior year at Mercy College, I was able to get an internship at the Putnam County Alcohol Services Department. It was there that I met my guru and mentor that believed in me. I would not be where I am without him, he set me on my path.
After graduating with a BSW in Social Work, I became a counselor at St. Agatha in Nanuet NY and began working with teens of alcoholics. I continued working at the Putnam County job and felt I not only was learning from both jobs, but they complemented each other. I realized that social work was truly where I was supposed to be.
How did your Jawonio journey begin?
Once St. Agatha closed I wondered if I should go back full time into alcohol counseling. And then as I was looking around, I saw a Jawonio ad for an employment counselor position and I said — that seems interesting. I had done some vocational work so I felt I had some experience. I interviewed with HR and then the Director of CES at the time. It seems I found myself in another conflicting sports situation again. As I walked into his office, it was like a shrine to the NY Mets and I immediately said, look I just want you to know I am a Yankee fan, and he hired me anyway. I was only supposed to be at Jawonio for three years and here I am in my 18th year.
What were your first experiences in meeting your team then and now?
After meeting Bob, the second person I met was Issy, Isabel Newmeyer. She has always been so kind and so dear to me from the first time we met. I then met Stacey Kantrowitz who was an outstanding team leader and she is to this day. Lana Rheubottom was and is my supervisor. The thing about Lana, is her ability to ask what her staff needs and not tell them what and how they should do things. Lana asks what tools I need at any given moment to support me and the work we do to lift up others. Then, there is Courtney Burnham. Without Courtney, I would be sunk. My own wife Maria calls her my work wife. So the kind of team culture here at Jawonio is unmatched and I am always grateful to be surrounded and supported by my talented colleagues in our department and throughout the agency.
What is it about Employment Counseling that keeps you fired up?
To tell you the truth, I think what keeps me growing and going as an employment counselor is of course, watching an individual learn, change and gain confidence and skills, but also, parallel to that is simply being part of the community, and representing Jawonio in the community. The community connection and supports we share give me a lot of pride and personal accomplishment too. You may not see it all the time, but Jawonio contributes so much to the community through people and their success which is amazing.
I get excited thanks to the great relationships we have had, and our individuals working for instance in a 30 year career at ShopRite in Pearl River. Then there’s the long-term success and collaboration with the Stony Point Conference Center. All of the connections, interactions and opportunities to work with employers and support our clients, truly makes the Jawonio impact real, and that is a really neat feeling.
How does Jawonio support and encourage employee ideas?
In terms of support and encouragement, Jawonio is great at that! I can give an example of what I say to new employees. I say to them that once you get settled and you think you have an idea that can be useful for people and our programs at Jawonio share it. We encourage it through discussion and brainstorming and it works. I have my own personal story of how an idea was presented and is working so well.
When I began in CES, I started a group for people who were already employed and we met and still meet on Monday nights. I was encouraged by my Jawonio CES team to do this and it’s great.
As a job coach, your role is more one on one – but leading a group of employed individuals who could “let their hair down” and talk about the day – the good and the bad has been terrific. So I took that idea to our PROS mental health recovery program and I am now running a Relapse Prevention group in that service area. This not only showed me that my experience in alcohol prevention was key, but that my supervisors and team were there to support me.
We allow for all kinds of conversations whether it’s losing friends from illness or participants during COVID or sharing good news of the day or week.
In this day and age, what’s important is that we are able to view and support recovery in many different modalities which are person-centered and essential.
Can you describe an unforgettable moment in your career?
There are so many stories throughout my life and career. However, some of the tools that I learned in the Marine Corps, college and St. Agatha were that structure and education were key. I will never forget a young man who was in my group as a teen. One day I was walking in NYC and he said, Bill – and he happened to be standing in from of a Child Center. I made an assumption that he now had a child in placement. So when I said, Billy what are you doing here? He said.. I run a program. I was just so amazed and happy to see him. I said how did this happen, how did you become a counselor? And here’s how the piece I said earlier about structure comes into play. So, he shared that he is only here thanks to one of his counselors that He said that there was always a bedtime structure for the teens in the bunk. But, there was a counselor who let him stay up an extra half hour so that he could just talk. And in that unforgettable moment I said to myself, if you can help one person, you change the world.
Do you have a favorite saying that has informed you in your career?
Yes, it is if you give a person a fish, they will eat for one day, if you teach a person to fish you feed them for a lifetime.
What do you look forward to at Jawonio?
I truly look forward to getting better every day. and know that I am. It’s really neat to have a team around you that is encouraging and positive everyday. We bring those values to the people we place in jobs, the employers we work with and to Jawonio.
Do you have some favorite things and fun facts that people don't know yet?
Some of my favorite things are: Going on weekend trips with Maria; Watching my NY Giants… when they win of course; I love Da Nina restaurant in Suffern; and related to favorite foods, I am still in search of the perfect hamburger.