Mission of Hope names new leader | News

PERU — North Country Mission of Hope’s next leader has been deeply involved with the organization for many years.

“It’s part of who I am,” said James Carlin, who accepted the job earlier this week. “It’s in my heart.”

The Plattsburgh man, 59, is presently a fourth-term mission of Hope Leadership Board president; he embarked on his first experience giving a hand up to the poor of Nicaragua in 2008 and, by the time political unrest suspended mission trips to the country four years ago, he’d racked up some 19 trips there.

On that first journey to the Central American country, Carlin’s focus was just “helping others,” he said Wednesday night. Before he returned home, he’d understood he and the others from the Town of Peru-based nonprofit were actually “working with people and helping each other.”

The experience of finding God in the most seemingly forsaken of circumstances, he said, “gave me a relationship with Christ I never imagined I could have.”

Last year, Carlin, a parishioner of Hold Cross Parish in Plattsburgh, was ordained a deacon in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg. That was a role in the church he knows he never would have been moved to pursue had he not had his Mission of Hope experience.

Nor had he ever imagined he’d take on the role of executive director.

“Not at all,” he said.


Despite the challenges that came with Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega’s return to power, Mission of Hope has continued all its programs, among them feeding and educating schoolchildren; providing medical, psychiatric and dental care; building home shelters; and much more. The group also responds to critical needs locally and at other points around the world.

“James knows the interworkings and the challenges,” said outgoing Executive Director Sister Debbie Blow, who is delighted over the choice of her successor.

Carlin also has worked with Mauricio Flores Cuadra and Magaly Velasquez, administrator and assistant administrator, respectively, of Mission of Hope operations in Nicaragua, a crucial piece now that the North Country nonprofit corporation must do its part remotely, she noted.

“He’s the perfect fit,” she said of Carlin, “He loves the Nicaraguan people; he truly believes in service.”

Carlin will fully assume the post in January 2023. Meanwhile, he will act in his capacity as Leadership Team president, along with that membership, to direct operations. By the end of the year, Carlin said, he will have sold his business, Centennial Abstract Company.

The executive director position is one of two paid Mission of Hope posts; he won’t collect a paycheck until he fully assumes the role.

Executive Secretary Suzanne Charette holds the other paid job, but she will be leaving at year’s end, Blow said.

“Suzanne is amazing,” she said. “One of the hardest things to adjust to (with retirement) is not working with her every day.”


Blow, who until now was the only person to hold the executive director position since mission operations began in 1999, announced her Aug. 16 retirement earlier this summer. A return of breast cancer that required a mastectomy factored largely in her decision.

That heart-wrenching choice has been made less painful by Carlin’s selection.

She praised his business sense, among other abilities he will bring to the job.

“He’s going to be well respected,” she said.

As well, Blow and Carlin have worked closely over the years, developing a friendship that makes for a very comfortable relationship, both agreed.

Blow will remain involved, contributing her long experience to Carlin’s transition, and, in fact, will continue writing her News and Notes and Reflections that mission volunteers have long relied on through email.

Carlin requested she do so.

He wants to see those who support Mission of Hope continue their connection with Blow, he said.

“It’s a really important part of the mission.”


Carlin, who with his wife, Beth, has three children and three grandchildren, has served on many mission committees, including Community Development, Estate Planning and Fundraising.

“With the support of our leadership, staff, donors and volunteers, James and I have worked tirelessly together for the past 14 years and have navigated multiple challenges of serving in an underdeveloped countryd by poverty, inequality, hunger and disease,” Blow wrote. in the email that announced Carlin’s choice.

Carlin approaches this new challenge with some trepidation.

In sports parlance, he said, a smile in his voice, “you never want to take over for a hall of famer,” and Blow certainly fits that description.

In truth, however, he made clear, “it’s not me taking over.”

He and the Dominican Sister of Hope will be walking the same path they have long trod together, Carlin explained. “It’s not ‘me or her’ — it’s differently but together.”


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