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Debbie King was 7 years old in 1963 when her father, James Ryan, cofounded a nonprofit to help people heal from mental illness and cope with life’s challenges. But it would be years before King grasped the powerful, lasting impact NewBridge Services would make in local communities.
She recalled a day in her mid-20s when the family drove past the nonprofit’s day treatment program for adults with serious mental illness, now called NewBridge Crossroads. King pointed out the odd scene of tropical plants on the property, which sits close to Newark-Pompton Turnpike.
“My father explained they were part of the horticultural therapy program, which was really helping clients,” she said. “That’s when I started to understand what NewBridge was all about.”
King is now president of NewBridge Services Board of Trustees, just as her father had been.
“I really believe in the mission of NewBridge, and I think my father would be very proud and happy that I’m continuing in his footsteps,” the lifelong Pequannock resident said.
Ryan, a highly decorated World War II veteran, served several terms as board president, and remained an avid supporter until his death in 2005, at age 84.
NewBridge began as the Pequannock Valley Mental Health Center, providing mental health services to seven eastern Morris County towns. It continually expanded its scope and service areas, taking the name NewBridge Services in 1998, the year it earned national accreditation. NewBridge now provides counseling, housing and education to more than 7,200 children, adults and seniors in five northern New Jersey counties.
A longtime NewBridge supporter, King became an active volunteer when she retired from a 34-year career in retail. She spent 23 of those years as vice president and division merchandising manager of women’s shoes for Bloomingdales. She recently stepped down as chair of the Fashion Footwear Association of New York, and still serves on its board.
King joined the NewBridge Gala Committee in 2015, the year she and her husband, George, donated $5,000 to NewBridge Jobs Plus, the nonprofit’s alternative education
and career program. (Bloomingdales made a matching donation.) NewBridge dedicated a classroom to her father and mother, Marie.
“My father really believed in education,” she said, noting he earned a dual degree in chemical engineering from Saint Lawrence University in New York and Massachusetts Institute of Technology after World War II. A first lieutenant in the U.S. Army, Ryan earned a Purple Heart, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster.
King has been a hands-on leader since joining the board of trustees in 2018. She is involved in revitalizing the Enrich horticulture program, and challenged another nonprofit’s decision to adopt the nearly identical name to NewBridge. She is chair of the Legacy of Hope Gala, which will be held May 9 at The Legacy Castle in Pequannock. (Visit NewBridge.GiveSmart.com to buy tickets and take advantage of sponsorship and ad journal opportunities.)
“Jim and Marie Ryan made such a positive impact on the lives of people with mental illness and their families, and we are fortunate Debbie is carrying their torch forward,” NewBridge CEO Robert L. Parker. “Debbie brings to the table leadership and business acumen that is helping to ensure a vibrant future for NewBridge and all the people it serves.”
The other members of the 2019 NewBridge officers are: Vice President David Crapo, Treasurer Isobel Wayrick and Secretary Rich Paliwoda.