POUGHKEEPSIE – Brian Riddell, the executive director of Dutchess Outreach is retiring at the end of 2020. The head of the Poughkeepsie-based organization that works to provide food and services to those in need is preparing to spend more time at home in New Paltz with his wife Michelle and their pets.
Riddell started with Dutchess Outreach in February of 1989 as a caseworker, not realizing that he would still be on the payroll three decades later. Brian rose through the ranks, being tapped for the executive director spot in May of 1995.
Riddell claims that his biggest accomplishments in his 31-year career are “Raising consciousness that access to food is a human right,” in addition to “Developing programs in response to two major pandemics; HIV/AIDS and COVID-19.” The latter saw Riddell lead Dutchess Outreach into a partnership with Dutchess County, the City of Poughkeepsie, and several other organizations and businesses to ensure that those in need of food did not go hungry as the pandemic widened and took hold of the Hudson Valley. “Brian Riddell has been so important to the City of Poughkeepsie,” said Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison. “His compassion and fierce dedication to helping others is a great example of how to make a difference in peoples’ lives. Food is life and he has made sure people have access to it,” added the mayor.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a need at Dutchess Outreach for a new food pantry space. For years it was located on the second floor of the Family Partnership, until the recent pandemic. Because the building was closed to the public, City of Poughkeepsie workers, led by Mayor Rob Rolison, helped Outreach staffers move all of the pantry items to the basement of the building so that clients could be given bags of food without entering the building. Before retiring, Riddell says he would like to find a new space for food pantry operations “that will allow for social distancing.”
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and Riddell strengthened their relationship early on in the 2020 pandemic. “Brian Riddell has not only led Dutchess Outreach, he has embodied the call to reach out into our community and help those who need help the most. That has never been more important nor more tested than these last several months,” said Molinaro, adding ” Our county and countless individuals are better because of his service – and I am tremendously grateful for his advocacy, leadership, and friendship.”
Ann St. Germaine, president of the Dutchess Outreach board of directors praised Riddell’s efforts. “Brian has made a life-long commitment to Dutchess Outreach. His vision for the organization has succeeded in providing services to thousands of people during his tenure.” The board has started the process of seeking a successor and hopes to name the person by December 1. Riddell’s last day is December 31, with St. Germaine saying “The board of directors wish him a healthy and well-deserved retirement.”
Riddell’s most memorable moment with the organization occurred in 2001 when Stephen King gave the commencement address to Vassar College graduates. King singled out Dutchess Outreach in his speech, pledged a $20,000 donation on behalf of the Vassar Class of 2001, and encouraged everyone in attendance to match him.
Riddell considers the role of director to be the one that secures resources, especially the right personnel and volunteers, needed for current programming and allocate them effectively and efficiently.
Brian’s advice to the incoming director is “Always be thinking about the near future and what challenges people with no or low income will face and how those matters may be dealt with.” Riddell, known for his ability to lobby donors and government agencies added “Be the public voice and advocate for those you serve,” continuing by saying “Maintain and guard your integrity and that of the organization.”
Tara Whalen, Associate Director of Dutchess Outreach has worked with Riddell for several years. “Brian has been like a father to me and taught me so much and strengthened my ability to help those in need. I am really going to miss him when he retires.”