Helping those in conflict and crisis

Gryphon Place executive director hopes to bring fresh perspective to Kalamazoo agency

Gryphon Place executive director hopes to bring fresh perspective to Kalamazoo a
3/9/2014

KALAMAZOO, MI -- Growing up, Maricela Alcala never imagined getting involved in social work. Now, the new executive director of Kalamazoo's Gryphon Place couldn't imagine working in any other field.

Before being hired in January by Gryphon Place, a Kalamazoo-based call center that offers a 211 suicide prevention line and services including conflict, crisis and dispute resolution services, Alcala worked in various positions for eight years for the United Way of Greater Kalamazoo, which also has a 211 line and provides many services similar to those at Gryphon Place.

The United Way opportunity presented itself because Alcala, who also speaks Spanish, had been serving as a case worker in Toledo at the nonprofit Adelante, Inc., a Latino resource center.

"I came to Toledo for a job opportunity for my husband and I just kind of came along and ended up in the social service field," she said. "It was kind of random."

Alcala, 38, grew up in Toledo before her parents moved the family to Guadalajara, Mexico, when she was 10 years old. She attended the University of Veracruz and graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration, before moving back to Toledo with her husband in 2003 and accepting the position with Adelante.

"I lived 18 years of my life in Mexico where there's really no social service. People go without shoes, they live in the streets, they pile up with family," Alcala said. "Coming back to where I'm from it was amazing to realize the resources that are available and how my population can benefit from the services."

Jane Moore, vice president of community impact for the United Way of Greater Toledo, said Alcala played a huge part in helping to secure national accreditation for that agency's 211 help line and organizing its client database. But, more important, Moore said, was that Alcala's primary focus was always on the needs of clients...

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Tags: executive director, Gryphon Place, kalamazoo