Shelterâ€™s founder and director steps down after 13 yearsâ€™ service
by Keith Beebe
ELBURNâ€”When Elburn resident Darlene Marcusson steps down from her position as Lazarus House executive director at the end of 2010, it will not be because she can no longer handle the 14-hour days she has grown accustomed to working, or because she is interested in pursuing other employment. In fact, her reason for stepping down is about as simple as it gets.
â€œIâ€™m old,â€ she said. â€œIâ€™ll be 62 years old in September, and my husband is already retired, so I think itâ€™s time to join him.â€
Marcusson, who founded Lazarus House in 1997 and has served as executive director for more than a decade, still plans to work on a part-time basis for the homeless shelter and service provider in St. Charles.
â€œItâ€™s not like Darlene is leaving for good … Sheâ€™ll still occasionally be available for consultations,â€ said Bill Grabarek, Lazarus board member. â€œWe know, however, that there is indeed life after Lazarus House for Darlene, and we wish her well.â€
Now that Marcusson has relinquished her leadership role at Lazarus, she will have the opportunity to visit her daughter in south Florida more frequently.
â€œMy daughter lives about halfway between Fort Lauderdale and Miami, and I miss her,â€ Marcusson said. â€œMy husband and I really look forward to being able to visit her more often.â€
The shelterâ€™s current associate director, Liz Eakins, will become the new executive director at the start of 2011. Grabarek, of Elburn, said he was extremely confident about Eakins ability to handle the leadership role.
â€œLiz is an excellent replacement choice for Darlene, and I have no doubt that Lazarus House will continue to grow with her serving in that position,â€ Grabarek said.
Marcusson also has confidence in Eakins.
â€œLiz is well-respected by the entire staff, and I know sheâ€™ll do a wonderful job as the new director,â€ Marcusson said.
The Lazarus board unquestionably holds that respect for Marcusson.
â€œShe was the driving force behind Lazarus House and was a huge reason for its overwhelming success in the service area,â€ Grabarek said.
Marcusson is grateful for the opportunity she was given to work closely with the community during her time as executive director, she said.
Under Marcussonâ€™s leadership for the past 13 years, Lazarus House has assisted thousands of people in need with its 24-hour shelter, three-meal-per-day soup kitchen, personal development programs, and transitional living quarters. In addition, Lazarus House helps subsidize household budgets and connects clients with appropriate social services agencies in the area to help them regain their independence.
Marcusson believes that founding Lazarus House was her destiny and now she is completely confident in her decision to step down at the end of the year.
â€œI have no idea what the Lord has in store for me, but we all have an assignment in life, and I have no doubt Lazarus House was what I was meant to do,â€ she said.
Darlene Marcusson founded Lazarus House in 1997 and since then led the organization through tremendous growth. Lazarus currently has approximately 40 employees and hundreds of volunteers, and serves St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia and western rural Kane County. Following is an abbreviated history of the St. Charles organization.
â€¢ June 1, 1997: Marcusson founded Lazarus House, which began as a warm-weather shelter (June through September) for homeless individuals connected to St. Charles.
â€¢ 1998: The program expanded its service area and located at the Free Methodist Church in St. Charles as a permanent site open 365 days a year.
â€¢ July 2003: The Lazarus House Center for Transitional Living opened its doors.
â€¢ January 2006: Lazarus House received a grant for a pilot program to provide ongoing rental subsidies to qualifying low-income households in St. Charles
â€¢ October 2006: Lazarus House opened the Daytime Center for Women and Children.
â€¢ October 2008: Lazarus House opened the Community Resource Center for its our Outreach Program (homelessness prevention).