Thursday, May 6, 2021

St. Matthew’s House CEO Vann Ellison retires after 17 years

Vann Ellison, president and chief executive officer of the St. Matthew’s House homeless and recovery program, has retired effective immediately, according to the nonprofit organization in Collier County.

Chief Operating Officer Steve Brooder is serving as interim director while the organization conducts a national search for a new CEO, Joe Trachtenberg, chairman of the board of directors, said in an April 29 news release.

St. Matthew’s House operates the only homeless shelter and residential recovery program in Collier.

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Ellison joined St. Matthew’s House in 2004 as president and CEO when it operated one homeless shelter with a $1.5 million annual budget. Ellison previously was the jail chaplain for the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.

Under his leadership, St. Matthew’s House has grown to a $25-million annual operation with its year-long homeless and addiction recovery program and numerous businesses to support its services. It employs 250 people. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, St. Matthew’s House has distributed food to more than 3,000 families a week.

“It is difficult to visualize St. Matt’s without (Ellison), given all he has accomplished over his 17 years of service,” Trachtenberg said. “We are sure that (Ellison’s) talents will continue to be used for a greater purpose.”

Vann R. Ellison, left, president and CEO of St. Matthew's House and St. Matthew's House employee Salvador Guzman, unload bags of donated good for the Neighborhood Health Clinic in Naples on Friday, May, 1, 2020.

Reached Tuesday by phone, Ellison, 59, said he is proud of what he has done at St. Matthew’s House and how lives are being transformed. 

He embraces a holistic approach that people need to get better in mind, body and spirit to be successful in their recovery from addiction and homelessness.

“I have looked at my options in front of me and the circumstances, given I have chosen to take early retirement and move on to the next chapter of my life,” he said. “I’m excited about the future. I tend to have a more optimistic view of life.”

Ellison said he and his wife, Lisa, will travel to Africa next week where they will be involved in missions in South Sudan and Uganda to rescue girls being trafficked and boys who are forced to become soldiers. They plan to stay in Africa a month.

Officials at other nonprofit organizations in Collier that provide food, medical care and addiction and mental health services for people housed or helped by St. Matthew’s House praised Ellison for his leadership. Some were caught off guard when they learned he had left St. Matthew’s House.

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