PADS Lake County director leaving for a new post

 
 
Updated 1/11/2019 7:58 PM
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  • Joel Williams, executive director at PADS Lake County, is leaving that post for another job.

      Joel Williams, executive director at PADS Lake County, is leaving that post for another job. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer, 2015

  • Gary Grace is the executive director and dean of The University Center of Lake County in Grayslake. He's retiring in April.

      Gary Grace is the executive director and dean of The University Center of Lake County in Grayslake. He's retiring in April. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer, 2017

The executive director of the PADS Lake County homeless assistance agency will leave that post in March for a different public role in the area.

Joel Williams will take over as executive director of the University Center of Lake County, which has campuses in Grayslake and Waukegan. The center's founding executive director and dean, G. Gary Grace, is retiring.

Williams has run the Waukegan-based PADS staff since 2013. He'll be replaced on an interim basis by Meghan Powell-Filler, the group's deputy executive director.

"Working at PADS has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish here," he said in an interview. "But I have long had a passion for higher education. Years ago, I was adjunct faculty at my alma mater, Elmhurst College.

"This opportunity at the University Center allows me to use my skill set and experience I have gained in the nonprofit sector while still being involved in the higher education world," he said.

PADS' services expanded under Williams' leadership, with more outreach efforts and homeless prevention services. Its daytime resource center moved from North Chicago to Waukegan.

"PADS is always evolving to meet the needs of its clientele," he said, pointing also to hiring more clinical staff to address mental health concerns, improving intake to make sure people get the right assistance, and work on staff development to ensure quality care.

Richard Greenswag, chairman of the PADS board of directors, said Williams will be missed. "While we are sad to see him go, we are grateful for the impact that he has had on the organization and the people we serve," he said in a news release.

Williams acknowledged the job had challenges, including in securing funding and working to reduce the stigma of homelessness.

"The rewards far outweighed them," he said. "Hearing the successes from former clients was always heartwarming. Working with the numerous volunteers that gave selflessly was an inspiration."

Grace announced his retirement last year, and the University Center's governing board began a search for his replacement in September.

The University Center was established in 1998 and Grace has led it since 2001. It offers courses from 18 public and private higher-education institutions across the state, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northern Illinois University and DePaul University. University Center students can complete bachelor's degrees or earn advanced degrees.

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