Last September, Leah Feldman ran 50 miles in a single day—in the rain. It was an achievement nearly as monumental as the mission of the nonprofit she leads: to build a stronger, safer Hudson Valley. In 2022, nearly 17,000 children, adults, and families benefitted from Poughkeepsie-based Family Services Inc.’s offerings, which range from youth and behavioral-health programs to community-safety initiatives. CEO Feldman’s ultramarathon wasn’t only about achieving a personal goal, but also helping her organization: Sponsors of her 11-hour run donated $50,000. As anyone familiar with Feldman knows, this tale is the most literal example of how she goes the extra mile for Family Services’ clients—but there are many, many more examples.
Feldman first felt drawn to community service in middle school. “A close friend was a victim of a sexual assault,” she shares. “I recall watching what she was going through and being one of the first people she told. We looked up the word ‘rape’ in the Yellow Pages and we called a number—it happened to be the Family Services rape crisis hotline. I remember that experience impacting me, showing me that I could make a difference in somebody’s life.” Later, as a student at Siena College (Loudonville), she joined a women’s center, where she raised awareness of violence against women and had internships centered around domestic violence.
By 2009, Feldman was a new college graduate and had landed a job with Family Services, initially as an advocate for domestic violence victims. Soon, though, she pivoted to a community-oriented role. While still an employee of the organization, she began working out of the district attorney’s office to establish a universal domestic violence response among law enforcement and area hospitals. Feldman was known for innovation—thanks to her research, Dutchess County was the first in New York to implement domestic violence homicide prevention programming. Additionally, she helped to craft legislation that toughened prosecution of domestic violence, and in 2017 co-founded The Brave Project, which offers classes where young girls can discuss tough issues they encounter.
“We like to say we exist to support everybody’s right to thrive,” says Feldman.
It was only up from there. Feldman began climbing the managerial ranks at Family Services, from directing its Center for Victim Safety and Support to becoming vice president for community programs. “I went from this very focused career in domestic violence and violence-against-women work to expanding my passion to all the work we do,” she explains. Along with that wider experience came a promotion to chief program officer in 2021, when her son was almost a year old.
Her appointment to CEO, in 2022, came at another major juncture in Feldman’s life: Shortly after giving birth again, to a daughter. “I was nine months pregnant with my second child—so I was about to have two children under the age of two,” she remembers. “My predecessor let me know he was retiring. I was like, ‘Oh god, now isn’t the time [to try for the job]. I’m about to have a baby!’” Typical of her go-for-it spirit, however, she threw her hat into the ring. After a nationwide search, she won the role.
Today, Feldman oversees Family Services’ 250-person staff and its 12 sites across the Hudson Valley. (While some people might find it difficult to keep body and soul together in her situation, she is also a certified fitness coach and professional bodybuilder.) She not only credits herself but also her staff for her success. “I’m shifting the landscape for women to be able to have it all,” she reflects. “The more I do that, the more I realize I have a team of people that are like, ‘Yeah, we got you. Go to the daycare. Pick up your kid if you have to.’” Their support is indispensable in her quest to uphold Family Services’ aim. “We like to say we exist to support everybody’s right to thrive,” she says—and Feldman is a role model for how to do just that.