Longtime Family of New Paltz director Kathy Cartagena to retire in May

Director of Family of New Paltz for the past 23 years, Kathy Cartagena will be retiring from her position soon. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Director of Family of New Paltz for the past 23 years, Kathy Cartagena will be retiring from her position soon. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

You know that somebody accomplishes a lot in their work when it takes two people to replace them upon retirement. That’s the case with Kathy Cartagena, who is retiring from her position as director of Family of New Paltz after 23 years. A new director and an assistant director have not yet been chosen; interviews are ongoing now.

Cartagena’s last day on the job will be Friday, May 6. “I’ve been thinking of retiring for quite a while — I’ve been here 23 years — and had been thinking about June, but decided to move it up,” she says. “I have a friend who reminded me recently that at this point in life, ‘We have more years behind us than ahead of us.’ It’s time to enjoy life.”


Not that she’s going anywhere, however. Cartagena lives in the village, and will remain on the Regatta Committee and the Affordable Housing Committee. “I believe in that so strongly. I have every intention of staying with things that I feel fully committed to. I love the community and I want to see things happen.”

She’s already had a few job offers, but says if she does anything at all, it’ll be part-time. “I’m not looking to get involved in a 40-hour week again. I just want to relax!”

One of the best things about having held the job at Family, says Cartagena, “is that I’ve made so many friends. The business owners around here are a wonderful support… And you know, ‘Family’ is not ‘Kathy’ — it’ll be just fine without me.”

Retirement is a little bittersweet, however (as is usually the case). “I absolutely love Family of New Paltz; I love the work that it does, the people that we serve… It’s a wonderful agency, providing housing and services, and I can’t say enough good things about it.”

And she wants the community to know their efforts were always appreciated. “The support I’ve had in this community is overwhelming,” she says. “There’s no way we would have been able to provide as many services as we have without the community’s help. I want to thank everyone, and there are so many people; from the police to the rescue squad to the Chamber, the Turkey Trot sponsors, the restaurants who gave us food… I don’t want to start naming all the names, in case I miss someone. And the volunteers… they’ve been just wonderful. Some of them have been here so long… but they’ll still be in my life, for sure.”

Cartagena’s plans for her retirement include shopping and travel, the latter made easier by having a daughter who works for an airline. (Her son is an attorney in Albany for the state Department of Health.) With a lot of her family living in Florida, she says she’s sure that she and her husband will spend some time down there next winter and spend a lot of time enjoying their many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “I don’t think I’ll ever be lonely, that’s for sure!”

A native of the Bronx, Kathy and her husband, Robert, owned and operated a wholesale and retail record store selling Latin music for 25 years before she ever heard of the Family organization. The Cartagenas came to the Hudson Valley first as summer visitors, and it was when they were living outside Ellenville that she read an article in the local paper about Family of Ellenville. “I thought, ‘wow, this sounds interesting. I never heard of people like this before who do so much for people!’ So I started there as a volunteer, for about a year, and then after switching to the New Paltz office, we sold the [record] business around that time and moved to New Paltz. And I just love it here.”

Kathy had only had two years of human services experience before beginning the job as director of Family of New Paltz. “My background was always in business, but that’s pretty much what you do here; it’s a nonprofit, but it’s still a business.”

Her fondest memory working for Family is hard to narrow down, but some people “stay with her,” she says. “I remember one year we had a woman who was in recovery from alcohol and drugs, and it was Mother’s Day and she didn’t have her child with her. So we paid for a retreat for her at a local church. It didn’t cost much, but she was just in touch with me recently and is still saying ‘thank you’ to me. And the thing is, I want to say ‘thank you’ to her… thank you for giving me the opportunity to make a difference. Knowing that with as much aggravation as you can get, there are always the ones who you know that you do make a difference in their life. And there are so many of those.”