FORT DRUM — Working without an executive director for 15 months, Advocate Drum hasn’t missed a beat to provide the same leadership that it always has for Fort Drum and the community, its board member said.
Case in point: Advocate Drum, formerly the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization, quickly moved forward when its board heard in May that the federal Department of Defense was offering a new program for projects to support military families and improve the quality of their lives.
Two weeks ago, the DOD announced a $9 million grant to help finance plans to convert a former call center on Arsenal Street into the Watertown Family YMCA’s new community and aquatic center.
Advocate Drum, the YMCA, the Fort Drum leadership and the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency worked together on the grant application, said David Zemiec, an Advocate Drum board member and County Economic Development deputy CEO.
It was a joint effort, he said.
The JCIDA owns the Arsenal Street former call center and was required to apply for the DOD grant.
Maureen P. Cean, vice chairwoman of the organization, said Advocate Drum’s leadership to secure the grant for the $18.1 million project exemplified what it has always done.
It provides a strong bond between Fort Drum and the north country, she said.
“We have a strong board and solid volunteers,” she said, adding the group’s administrative assistant has picked up additional responsibilities in the past year.
They’ve continued to provide a connection to the community after its executive director Edward W. “Fritz” Keel abruptly announced he was leaving his job last July, she said.
After Mr. Keel departure, Advocate Drum learned that it lost a $300,000 state grant that helped pay for the executive director, so the board decided it could not replace him.
In the past, the organization has used the $300,000 grant to help fund its budget over two years, Mr. Zembiec said. Mrs. Cean stressed Mr. Keel’s departure had nothing to do with the state funding. He left to take a job in the private sector in Texas.
Mr. Zembiec hopes that Advocate Drum will be able to secure the state $300,000 grant in the future. The board also has a long term goal of reestablishing the executive director’s position.
But the organization will continue to provide that link between the post and the community in the meantime, Mrs. Cean said.