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2011 Most Influential Women Honoree: Gaye Collins

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Part of being a good leader is knowing when and how to help, says Gaye Collins, executive director of the Community Alternative Service Program, which offers community service to nonprofit groups as an alternative to jail time for some offenders.

“Leadership is a crazy thing – you have to know when to step up and when to step back,” she says.

At CASP, Collins has direct responsibility for management of the agency, through which more than 3,400 workers provided more than 179,000 service hours to nearly 700 nonprofit entities throughout Missouri and the U.S. in 2010.

Before she joined CASP in 2004, Collins used her leadership capabilities in several roles aimed at improving the lives of others – and evidence of her efforts can still be seen today.

Collins, who has a bachelor’s degree in social work from Missouri State University, helped write grants for Jordan Valley Health Center, Ambassadors for Children and the Christian County Family Crisis Center and led a DWI task force that piloted a cell phone campaign encouraging drivers to call *394 if they saw someone driving erratically.

More than 20 years later, the program’s signs are still on Missouri roadways.

In the 1980s, Collins also helped develop a presentation on fetal alcohol syndrome, and she still uses it every semester to educate MSU students about the dangers of using drugs and alcohol during pregnancy.

As director of Caring Communities for the Community Partnership of the Ozarks 1999–2004, Collins helped facilitate public meetings that allowed the Division of Family Services to address citizens’ concerns after a child, Dominic James, died in foster care.
After a series of community meetings that lasted more than a year, new reporting systems and communitywide training were developed.

Sylvia Persky, former associate director of the Community Partnership of the Ozarks, says Collins’ track record as a public servant makes her well-suited to CASP.

“It is no wonder she is associated with an agency that seeks to serve our community while helping individuals turn their negative behaviors into positive actions,” Persky says. “Gaye has always been a positive person who believes we are responsible for our actions, and our actions can lead to many positive outcomes for ourselves and others.”

Collins also is the case manager for nearly 75 CASP clients.

“Every day, I see people change their lives and start new,” Collins says. “I hope their interaction with my team has helped them make the change.”

Click here for full coverage of the 2011 Most Influential Women.
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