Lazarus House gets new executive director

Courtesy photoJeffrey Hassel will take on the role of executive director at Lazarus House starting July 1.

LAWRENCE — New England native Jeffrey Hassel is returning home after leading mission and ministry teams worldwide to take on the role of executive director at Lazarus House Ministries.

Hassel, 55, will move nearly 200 miles to re-locate to the area for his new position. He currently lives in Hartsdale, N.Y., and grew up in Ridgefield, Conn.

"It's a big job and I'm really looking forward to getting to it and giving it my best," he said about his new position, which he will begin on July 1.

His most recent previous job was as executive director for a non-profit in Guatemala called ODIM, Organization for the Development of the Indigenous Maya. During his four years there, he focused on medical care, education and home building. 

He also worked for United Methodist Church in Lithuania for six years, rebuilding structures and starting new congregations of people in the former Soviet Union-controlled country.

During the transition into his new position, Hassel will spend time with the current executive director of Lazarus House, Bridget Shaheen, to learn about the organization. Shaheen announced her retirement from the position in April.

"This is a well planned transition and it's a big deal for everybody," said Hassel. "There's a sense that this is the right time."

Shaheen, who was the first volunteer at Lazarus House and has been with the ministries for 36 years, is parting from her top position after 25 years. She said she is hopeful for its future under the leadership of Hassel.

“It is with great joy that I join the board in welcoming Jeff to the Lazarus House Family," said Shaheen, who is in her 70s. "I am surely confident that he will be a wonderful leader for all of (us) who love the work of Lazarus House so much. We have already been praying for Jeff for quite a while, even before we knew who he was. Now we look to the Lazarus House community to support Jeff as he continues to grow the Lazarus House legacy.”

Hassel said he is looking forward to building on Shaheen's decades of work, as well as building relationships with the staff and guests that come into Lazarus House everyday.

"I want to get to know them and I want them to get to know me," he said. "One of the things I love to do in life is build connections between people, organizations and ministries that matter to both parties."

Hassel's ability to speak Spanish will help him in building those connections, as there is a large Spanish-speaking population in Lawrence.

He said the language is one of the things that geared him toward the position, adding that he loves to use Spanish to communicate with people in the United States "in their mother tongue, as an act of hospitality and respect."

"More important than the results of well-run programs is how the people of Lazarus House offer welcome, love, and dignity to anyone who comes through the door," he said.