PLATTSBURGH - The nonprofit organization which oversaw the development of White Pine Commons has paid tribute to its past executive director, Gordon J. Hazel.
The Joint Council for Economic Opportunity of Clinton and Franklin Counties officially named the 32-unit housing development's community center in honor of Hazel during a ceremony Oct. 15. The ceremony, attended by local and state dignitaries and by Hazel's friends and family, included several words of praise for Hazel's involvement with the Military Turnpike development.
JCEO's current executive director, Bruce E. Garcia, said creating more affordable family housing was one of the most important focuses in 18 years at the helm of the organization.
"Without his vision and his dedication to the cause, White Pine Commons would have never been realized," said Garcia.
The project was in the works since 2005, when JCEO conducted a market study which showed a need for housing. JCEO submitted an application for state funding, which wasn't approved, though the study was revised in 2006, showing the same need and was finally approved.
Garcia credited Hazel's commitment to seeing the project through that led to its completion in August 2008. It was that same commitment that Hazel was credited for bringing JCEO from an organization with an annual operating budget of $885,000 and 56 employees to one with a budget in excess of $7 million that employs 170 people.
"Also, JCEO has gone from serving less than 5,000 families per year to serving more than 25,000 families," said Garcia. "Obviously, Gordon's accomplishments at JCEO have been numerous and significant."
Steven W. Frederick, president of the JCEO board of directors, agreed.
"Gordon, you have not only inspired the board of directors at JCEO, I've said this time and time again, you've inspired boards of directors and other executive directors of other nonprofits all over the North Country," said Frederick.
When the plaque inside the community center was unveiled, Hazel was overcome with emotion as he thanked the crowd.
"As you all know, someone has to be a leader, but there also has to be a team. And, all this got accomplished with a great deal of people working on it in addition to me," said Hazel. "The beautiful housing you see here today is the result of the tremendous vision and dedication of our JCEO board of directors."
"What you see here today in this development is a monument to that vision and leadership, I'm so proud to be a part of it," he added. "And, now, to have my name attached to it, is just an unimaginable honor to me."