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Head of Brockton women's recovery home named Person of the Year

Judy McDonough
Judith McDonough (MEd '99) was recognized as the 2018 Person of the Year by the Brockton Housing Authority. McDonough has been the executive director for about 10 years. The Edwina Martin House is a recovery home for women struggling with substance abuse.

When she took over about 10 years ago, the Edwina Martin House in Brockton was on the brink of closing its doors due to financial difficulties, after the recovery home helped provide thousands of women a new beginning in life.

"In came Judy McDonough with her drive and spirit," said the Brockton Housing Authorty, in a recent statement commending her work. "Under Judy's leadership, the programs at the Edwina Martin House are thriving and the network of services is expanding."

The Brockton Housing Authority recently named Judith McDonough, executive director of the Edwina Martin House, as its 2018 Outstanding Person of the Year. The Brockton Housing Authority, which owns the 678 North Main St. building, where 21 women live at a time, credited McDonough for the "important work" she has done at the Edwina Martin House since 2008 and throughout her 31year career in social services.

"It's challenging, I can tell you that. But it's rewarding," said McDonough, reached by The Enterprise on Tuesday. "People who come into residential treatment programs have pretty much burnt all their bridges and need to rebuild. What can you say? When I see graduates come back and help newer clients, I know it's working."

McDonough was also quick to thank her co-workers, including five members of the clinical staff and six support staff, after receiving the 2018 Outstanding Person of the Year award at the Brockton Housing Authority's annual meeting on June 22.

"I really rely on the staff a lot to do their jobs, and look at individual treatment plans, and do what will be best with that person," McDonough said. "It's really about working with a team of people. Nobody does this stuff alone. When I got that award, I didn't do that alone. I got that because I had a great team of people working around me."

When McDonough took the helm at the Edwina Martin House, it lost its funding from Catholic Charities, as a result of the priest sexual abuse scandal, she said. The operation was then turned over to the nonprofit EMH Recovery, Inc.

"The whole place was in the red," McDonough said. "It was not doing good. It was slated to close. And it was a risky business."

McDonough said she came to the Edwina Martin House after about 15 years working in South Boston at the Gavin House, a men's residential substance abuse program, where she had stability as the program manager. While still at the Gavin House, McDonough was asked by a colleague, Paul McDevitt, to create a job description for an executive director for the Edwina Martin House.

"Then, he asked me to fill that position," said McDonough, who grew up in Dorchester. "It was like a hook. I got a hook into me."

McDonough said her inspiration for getting into the field was her own experience with alcoholism. Her father and mother suffered from alcoholism, and they died when she was young from dementia and cancer, respectively. McDonough started drinking at age 11, before getting sober at 23 years old.

"Substance abuse is in my family," she said. "I got sober on my birthday at 23. There wasn't enough alcohol at the party for me to feel OK. When I first got sober, it was a obviously a very difficult time. ... What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

McDonough completed undergraduate studies at UMass, before getting her master's degree at Cambridge College.

"I took to this field like a duck to water," McDonough said. "I had all the life experience that dovetailed into my career."

The career social worker was commended by the executive director of the Brockton Housing Authority and Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter.

"Judy heard the call to help others early on," said BHA Executive Director Thomas Thibeault. "Over the course of her career she has helped countless people regain their personal lives and return to being productive members of society. Her track record of success made it important for the BHA to recognize her."

It's all been worth it for McDonough, especially when she sees women who are reunited with their children, after beginning their road to recovery at the Edwina Martin House in Brockton.

"When you work with someone and they turn their life around - and now they have control in their life, they have a job and are reunited with their family - there's nothing like it," she said.