Managing Family

Penny Tabbert

In all of her 19 years working at DATA, Penny Tabbert has never been busier. As director of human resources, she’s been spending a great deal of time searching for experienced mental health therapists for DATA’s newly implemented School Based Behavioral Health Program in Palm Beach County schools. When Penny reaches out to potential job candidates, she can sense right away if someone is the right fit for DATA, “I go with my gut, I can quickly tell if they want to join the family or just get a job.”

The DATA family, as she calls it, is made up of many colleagues who have worked together for more than a dozen years and others who have been with DATA for decades. However, whether a veteran or a newcomer, Penny says all 115 employees at DATA share a special bond. “We all have the same goal and that’s to take care of clients.”

From counselors working one-on-one with students to administrators evaluating program components, Penny says everyone takes pride in carrying out DATA’s mission to help young people struggling with addiction and support troubled teens and adolescents. She is more than happy to do her part, “I could never be a therapist or work at our residential treatment centers. I mean, I’d want to take those kids home with me, but at least I can partake by finding qualified people who can take care of them.”

Penny’s open door policy in human resources also lends itself to close connections with co-workers and staff and she enjoys helping colleagues deal with the realities of professional advancement. “I assist them with loan forgiveness programs, and I help with certifications.”

For several reasons, Penny views DATA CEO John Fowler as a strong patriarchal figure at DATA. “He treats us like family. He’s been here for more than 30 years and because of that he knows all the ins and outs of DATA and knows how difficult it can be.”

It’s no wonder Penny is comfortable with DATA’s familial environment. When asked about her family outside of work, she provides great detail. “Let’s see, I have one stepdaughter, two granddaughters and four great granddaughters from my first marriage and four stepchildren, seven grandchildren and one son from my current marriage.” And just like at DATA, Penny keeps busy, with a family that enjoys boating, hiking and camping.

penny tabbert

A commitment to family is why Penny didn’t earn a college degree until her mid 30’s. Her office work experience in Air Force Recruitment, insurance and banking eventually led to a Master in Human Resources Development and Administration. “I always liked HR and marketing.”

There’s no question Penny has the perfect temperament for HR. At 61, she is soft spoken and warm when interacting with her DATA family, and considers herself a good listener; but at the same time she is a determined executive. “I fix things, when things need to be done, I have a can do attitude.”

That can do attitude has served Penny well in organizing DATA’s annual meeting, which has grown larger over the years. “At the first annual meeting we held, there was a small group of administrators and board members, and two clients came and sang a song. Now we’re up to 75-85 people who attend each year.” It’s a crowd that expects to be entertained. In previous years, staff members have shed their inhibitions with performances featuring lip-syncing, skits and comedy routines. Penny’s personal favorite was a skit by DATA staff directors based on The
Wizard of Oz, entitled “The Wonderful World of DATA.”

At the moment, Penny’s can do attitude is directed at hiring as the DATA family continues to grow. Not surprisingly, several positions have recently been filled by re-hires. “They find out it’s not greener out there and they don’t get a family-like organization like here at DATA.”

You might say, they’re returning home to family.

F – French fries or tater tots? French fries

R – Right brained or left brained? Right brained

E – Email or carrier pigeon? Email

S – Sunshine or moonlight? LOL

H – Homebody or party animal? Homebody