The new executive director of Bethesda Cares, a nonprofit community outreach program for the homeless, has died after about a month on the job.
Michael Officer took over last month for Susan Kirk, who retired after 21 years as executive director.
Board President Kathy Petitt sent an email on Monday notifying the Bethesda Cares community about Officer’s sudden death.
John Mendez, Bethesda Cares’ director of outreach and special projects for nearly eight years, has taken over as interim executive director.
Mendez said Officer’s family indicated that he died after going into cardiac arrest.
The Bethesda Cares staff and some board members met Tuesday to share their grief and work on healing, he said.
“It was tough when we heard this,” Mendez said. “We were heartbroken. It was very sad.”
Some board members are coming back to the United States from foreign travel to talk more about the next steps for the organization to take, he said.
When Kirk picked Nov. 15 as her retirement date, the plan was to have a new executive director in place by early November, so she could help her successor learn the job.
Bethesda Cares’ announcement about Officer’s hiring stated that it was effective Nov. 1.
Officer’s LinkedIn page says he was executive director of The Healthy Families/Thriving Communities Collaborative Council in Washington, D.C., from January 2013 to October 2017.
The Collaborative Council is an umbrella entity that helps coordinate and advocate for five neighborhood-based human services organizations in D.C.
Ramsey Daminabo, the Collaborative Council’s chief financial officer, described Officer as a hard-working person who pursued causes to which he was committed.
Mae Best, the executive director of East River Family Strengthening Collaborative, one of the organizations under the Collaborative Council, remembered Officer as a forward thinker who paid attention to budget details.
The Rev. Charles Booker, a pastor at Bethesda Presbyterian Church, who volunteers at Bethesda Cares, said Officer spoke to his church about a week before his death, telling a powerful story about growing up poor.
“He definitely had a heart for the job,” Booker said.
Before Officer worked at The Healthy Families/Thriving Communities Collaborative Council, he was a senior director of the National Urban League’s Mature Worker Program, according to his LinkedIn page.
Previously, he worked at the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation as a senior program officer.
The Bethesda Cares announcement of his hiring says Officer was born and went to school in London.
His LinkedIn page says he earned a bachelor’s degree from Kingston University in England in 1988 and a master’s degree from the University of Reading in England in 1990. He completed a program in nonprofit management at Columbia University in New York in 2007.