EOC Chief Executive Officer Ms. Iris A. Johnson’s career at the EOC started in 1977, when she enrolled her son in the EOC Head Start Program, where management realized her dynamic talent for community organization. Elected as the Chairperson of the Nassau County Head Start Policy Council, her natural passion to advocate for children and families was set in motion and she became a founding member of the New York State Head Start Parent Association. Thus, began her meteoric rise at the EOC working in positions of increasing responsibility, including: Nutrition Coordinator, Director of Health & Nutrition, Director of Hempstead Community Action Program, Deputy Director, and Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer. She received a Master of Human Services (MHS) Degree from Lincoln University, Family Development credential from Cornell University and received numerous certificates in executive level training. Ms. Johnson's expansive career demonstrates the values she imparts to individuals to: Unlock your own highest potential, focus on goals, keep the vision, and to help others. Ms. Johnson passed on Tuesday February 15, 2022.
As the Chief Executive Officer of the Economic Opportunity Commission of Nassau County, Inc., (EOC) she provided leadership to the board, advisory council and staff in its mission, simply stated “Helping People Changing Lives.” She was the first woman to hold the position of CEO at the EOC, Nassau County's largest minority employer.
Ms. Johnson managed five Community Action Program locations as well as eight Full-Year Head Start Programs, servicing over five hundred children and families in our communities. Other programs under her care included: Displaced Homemaker Multi-Service Center (DHP), Maternal and Infant Community Health Collaborative (MICHC), Re-Entry Program, Family Violence Program, Youth Leadership Programs, a One-Stop Employment Service Center, Senior Citizen Programs, Immigration Legalization Assistance Program and Emergency Food and Shelter Programs. Ms. Johnson also founded the Hempstead EOC award winning soccer program.
During the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which destroyed the Long Beach Head Start program location, Ms. Johnson hired a minority contractor who built a state of the art center in Long Beach. Today the Long Beach head Start Center services over sixty children from the Long Beach community. The three-story, facility opened in 2015 and has a rooftop playground, security station, meeting room, and elevator.
Ms. Johnson was highly recognized in Nassau County for strong problem resolution, negotiation skills, and confidence in making on-the-spot decisions. She had the ability to formulate a powerful team-building approach to direct, develop and motivate associates to be the best they can be. She believed in doing things right the first time around because "you never get a second chance to make a first impression."
An advocate for all people, Ms. Johnson actively participated in drug marches in the Hempstead, Roosevelt, Freeport, Long Beach, Port Washington and Glen Cove communities in the late 1980’s. A strong proponent for the Emergency Protection Tenant Act for ensuring that tenants in New York State received affordable housing and stabilized rent, represented individuals at Department of Social Service hearings when they were denied benefits, as well as individuals and seniors applying for social security and disability benefits. She helped establish an alternative school at 100 Main Street in Hempstead. Along with the EOC, she fought to keep the WIC program in Nassau County and became satellite centers for WIC services and the Nassau County Department of Social Services. She testified before the NY State assembly and fought for program funding to aid low income and poor people’s benefits throughout NY State, in particular Nassau County residents. As a key member of the New York State Community Action Association and the New York State Community Service Block Grant Advisory Council, Ms. Johnson assisted in writing legislation governing community action programs and developed policies for minorities, low income and poor individuals within York State. She appeared before the Nassau County Legislature numerous times advocating for funding and programs for youth and families throughout Nassau County. She was the first credentialed African American Family Development Program Instructor and Field Advisor of Long Island, completing training through Cornell University. Under her leadership and training, more than thirty senior employees from the EOC have become credentialed Family Development specialists through Cornell University and counting. Through Ms. Johnson's visionary solutions, the Family Development philosophy was adopted by the EOC and has become the standard by which EOC staff work from a strength-based approach, building respectful relationships and offering specialized services appropriate to each person’s needs.
Ms. Johnson raised funds for youth to attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities through the Martin Luther King scholarship fund. Due to her commitment and dedication to young people, in the late 1980’s Ms. Johnson was the recipient of the first Youth Community Service Award from Planned Parenthood of Nassau County for working with young people to educate and increase awareness about sexually transmitted diseases and HIV AIDS.
Ms. Johnson distinguished herself through leadership and active participation in work responsibilities and community involvement. As an accomplished workshop presenter and keynote speaker, Ms. Johnson received numerous awards and citations for Professional Performance and Outstanding Community Service such as:
· Certificate of Merit from Town of Hempstead- Women’s issues in raising African American Males
· EOC of Nassau County, Inc. - MLK Living the Dream Award
· Glory House - Perseverance Award
· Antioch Baptist Church - Pouring into Others Award
· Hempstead High School - Trailblazer Award
· County Executive Tom Suozzi - Women of Distinction Award
· Women of Substance - Woman of the Year Community service Award
· Long Island Million Women’s Fund - Leadership Award
· Dale Anthony, Tough Talk - Humanitarian Award
· Saint Paul Greater Faith - Perseverance in the Struggle Award
· Ms. Johnson has received awards from the Hempstead, Roosevelt, Freeport and Lakeview NAACP
· Nassau County Girl Scouts
· Soroptimist International of Nassau County – Making a Difference for Women Award
· Town of Hempstead Women’s History Month – Pathfinder Award
· Sisters In The Struggle, SHERO Award
· New York Metropolitan Chapter of Alabama State University Award
· Operation Get Ahead Gerard Burnett, Jr. - Community Advocate Award
· New York State Head Start Association Silver Anniversary: Cited as Successful Head Start Parent Climbs Ladder of Success Nassau County
· Nassau County CAP Director's Association: Visionary Award Minority Community
Affiliations / Local, State Boards:
· Town of Hempstead Workforce Investment Board
· New York State Community Service Block Grant
· Nassau County Minority Health Task Force
· Minority Community Policy Action Network
· Nassau County Health and Welfare Council
For all her personal achievements in the workplace, community and home, it is the pleasure of the staff and executive team at the Economic Opportunity Commission of Nassau County, Inc. to celebrate Black History today Friday, February 25, 2022 in honor of Iris A. Johnson, CEO.