Patricia Vitelli hardly slept between 2008 and 2010. It was the financialcrisis, and nonprofits around the globe were losing funding. The one she was working for, Westhab, a Yonkers-based organization that helps homeless and low-income families find homes, was no exception. As controller, it was up to her to make sure the organization—which has helped 5,000 families move into their own apartments since its founding in 1981—could keep running.
Looking back, Vitelli realizes how fortunate she was to have the background that she does. She spent 18 years working for a private real estate investment trust and had 30 years total experience working in real estate development, property management, accounting, and finance. She also attained her BS in accounting from Fordham University. “I think it is important [for nonprofit execs] to take financial courses or even work in a for-profit industry,” she says. Vitelli also says her for-profit experience helped her run Westhab like an efficient business.
Using that experience, she took much-needed action for Westhab, restructuring the debt, implementing strong operating budgets, and managing contracts so that they fell within budget. She kept the organization going, and also set it up for the future. “Westhab’s forecast is strong, and Pat is a huge reason for this,” says Vitelli’s supervisor, Richard Nightingale. Since then the organization has expanded and now helps find housing for the low-income, senior, veteran, and special needs populations in Westchester.
After the financial crisis, Vitelli, who lives in Hartsdale with her husband of 32 years, was promoted to vice president of finance at Westhab. She is now in charge of everything finance related: investments, budgeting, reporting, audits, compliance with government regulations. She says her promotion was the moment she finally felt like she made it to the top. “I felt a sense of accomplishment, that the work I had put in was valued and recognized,” she says. And then she adds, “But there is no relaxing.”