Lutz leads agency to new heights

Published 1:03 pm Thursday, November 3, 2016

Helping struggling children and their parents or guardians get out of poverty, achieve an education and live in a safer community is all in a day’s work for Alice Stafford Lutz, the chief executive officer of Triangle Family Services in Raleigh, N.C.

The 1980 graduate of Buckingham County High School — who has traveled the nation working for nonprofit organizations and raising money for benevolent groups — said her inspiration comes from her deepest roots: Her mother and father, Phyllis and Ramon Stafford, who live in Buckingham County.

Triangle Family Services has been around for about 80 years and helps those struggling with mental health, financial stability and family safety, offering numerous programs for those in North Carolina in their hours of need.

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Though the organization is flourishing under Lutz’s leadership, it hasn’t always been that way.

“I, basically, was hired to ride the ship,” Lutz said. “It was 2009, and I think a lot of people can relate to the financial crisis of that time.”

She said the organization “wasn’t in the place it needed to be,” resulting in Lutz taking the bull by the horns and restructuring around the group’s core mission, consolidating the staff into one location, instituting “really strong” productivity measures and creating a sustainable plan for each program area of the organization — all while expanding leadership and engagement in the community.

“Alice joined Triangle Family Services at a turbulent time in early 2009,” agency board Chairman Ruffin Scott said. “Many organizations were facing their own crisis, much like our nation. She turned to our community to leverage relationships and engage in deeper conversations to bring about sustainable change. She was not in for a quick fix, but rather a sustainable solution to help families in crisis.”

The organization, which offers comprehensive services to residents in need, now has 10 programs underneath each service area.

“For me, it’s really important that people understand when families come to us in crisis (during) the worst time in their life and to be recognized like this and the work that we quietly do every single day is really impactful,” Lutz said.

After graduating from Virginia Tech with a degree in marketing, she moved to Florida and started a career in nonprofit management.

“I was coordinator for a telethon for the March of Dimes. So, I produced a telethon. And then I was executive director of the Multiple Sclerosis Society,” she said.

Following her husband, she moved to North Carolina, where she served as a marketing vice president for the United Way.

After working for a privately owned foundation and starting her own business teaching for the Duke Nonprofit Certification Course, Triangle Family Services recruited her as a “change agent.”

“They recruited me out of running my own company,” said Lutz, who has been CEO for seven years.

Lutz and her agency have been recognized with numerous awards and accolades for its work in communities in North Carolina.

With a $3.2 million budget, the organization is a finalist for a $1 million grant, which could greatly expand services and program offerings, she said.

“We have a waiting list in most of our programs at any given time. What we really want to be able to do is to scale and impact our community and continue to meet the needs of families in crisis,” Lutz said.

She points to her mother and father as her source of inspiration in helping other people.

“I grew up believing that part of my core of who I am as a person is to give back to our community. And, so, I’ve always volunteered,” she said, adding it is in her DNA. “When crisis happens, you never thought it would be you. That night, three years ago … I got that call from my parents when their house was burning down to the ground. They had nothing left but their lives … it was this sort of full-circle effect for me.”

Lutz’s involvement in helping her parents rebuild their home and get back on their feet after the fire was humbling.

“When it’s you, it’s really different,” she said.

Scott said Lutz is “an incredibly passionate and energetic” leader

“If you’ve spent more than five minutes with her, you know,” he said. “She has the talent and the leadership skills to accomplish pretty much anything she puts her mind too.”