REGINA — Catholic Family Services Society of Regina CEO Sandi Urban is feeling quite comfortable in her role; she moved into the position 11 months ago. Urban became executive director of CFSS on April 1, 2017, after the retirement of David Sax. Sax had put in 34 years of service with the agency, 21 of those as executive director.
Urban is a mother of four who spent 15 years at SaskTel after obtaining a BA in English from the University of Saskatchewan. She accepted a voluntary retirement package from SaskTel to become a stay-at-home mom when the crown corporation went through a downsizing exercise.
She was subsequently elected a trustee with the Prairie Valley School Division, and during her time there was elected to the executive committee of the Saskatchewan School Board Association and served as president of the provincial organization, followed by a year as president of the Canadian School Board Trustees Association.
She describes herself as a “policy wonk” and began accepting small contracts with non-profit organizations, helping them with policy work, and that led her to thinking about getting back to some kind of full-time occupation.
“I needed to find a job with purpose. A greater purpose is what I need in order to get up in the morning. So, I knew what the job had to feel like.”
She responded to an ad by an executive search company, was interviewed to establish her credentials, and was eventually hired by CFSS.
“I immediately felt that this was I where I am supposed to be,” she said when she walked through the door for the first time.
She acknowledged that there had been a steep learning curve — “I hate those first few months when you feel you don’t know anything” — but her only real surprise was how quickly she felt at home in her new job. “Everyone was so helpful.”
The Catholic Family Services Society officially began as the Catholic Welfare Society in 1937, founded by the Sisters of St. Martha, who came to the Regina archdiocese at the invitation of Archbishop Monahan. CFSS now offers a variety of programs, including family and individual counselling, marriage preparation programs, and a 50-space day care service.
Urban says CFSS faces the usual challenges of most non-profits: funding. It receives funding from the United Way, but donations to that charity are not what they used to be, and CFSS has had its United Way funds cut “substantially.” Some funding is received from the Regina Archdiocese Bishop’s Appeal, but the organization operates largely on private donations and a fee-for-service system that is scaled according to income.
Urban has been exploring relations with the Regina Catholic, Public, and Prairie Valley school divisions to see how they might support families together. “The schools are experiencing budget cuts, but the needs are great: anxiety and depression are trending upward among children. We are looking to see how we can support kids and their families before those problems become full-blown diagnoses.”