We were very sad to learn that Richard Shay, the founder of our agency, passed away on June 24. Mr. Shay had a tremendous impact on this community and we will be forever grateful for his efforts to make this a better place for people to live and thrive. His vision that led to the creation of Family Counseling Services changed the way we view and support people who are struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues.
A well-established attorney in Cortland, he was elected County, Family and Surrogate Court Judge in 1969. Recognizing a critical shortage of counseling services for persons coming into his court, Judge Shay secured a grant from the Ford Foundation in 1970 to establish Volunteer Family Counseling Services of Cortland County. Mr. Shay served as the first board president and remained on the FCS board of directors through 2006. The effectiveness of the volunteer program led to the expansion of services and the addition of professional counseling staff. The name of the agency was eventually changed to Family Counseling Services of Cortland County following the transition from volunteer staff to all professional counselors.
Over the past 46 years, the agency has grown substantially from our humble beginnings and now offers services in both Cortland and Madison counties. In 2012, the agency merged with Cortland Prevention Resources further expanding services to the community. At its heart, Family Counseling Services is about helping children, teens and adults by providing affordable and accessible mental health, addiction and prevention services.
Each year, Family Counseling Services presents the Richard Shay Human Services Award to a student who has been actively involved in school and community service as exemplified by Judge Shay. His dedication to this community, recognition of the importance of family, and his belief in the power of volunteer leadership and guidance serve as an inspiration to others.
Richard Shay changed this community for the better and he will be sorely missed…but his legacy lives on.