Former Teen Leader at The Retreat Becomes its New Shelter Director

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The Stephanie House Residential Shelter has a new Director, Thalia Olaya, who stepped into the role in January. Although this position is new for her, Thalia is well versed with The Retreat, having first started as a member of its Teen Leadership Council in 2010. Throughout her schooling and beyond, she stayed connected with the organization and discovered a passion for helping others in the process.

As a teen leader, Ms. Olaya spearheaded fundraisers, led outreach tables, and spoke at events, including at Latino Parent Nights at East Hampton High School, where she graduated. Her experience as a Teen Leader left a lasting impression.

While in college, she volunteered with the Retreat’s Legal Advocacy department learning how to help clients navigate the family court system. “Being a legal advocate really sparked my interest in law even more,” she said. “I just saw so many injustices going on.” After graduating college, she decided to go to law school and spent the year in between schools working as an administrative assistant at The Retreat’s shelter. 

Following graduation from Hofstra Law, she worked for Assemblyman Fred Thiele as a legislative aide, before becoming The Retreat’s Shelter Director in January 2023. In this position, Ms. Olaya oversees general operations of Stephanie House, manages staff, and most importantly, ensures clients’ needs are being met.

“I’ve really enjoyed getting to interact directly with survivors and the opportunity to hear their stories and see their resilience, it’s something that has meant a lot to me,” said Ms. Olaya. “Also the opportunity to change someone’s life and be a part of their healing process. It’s something that I love to do. It’s work that really matters. You feel like you have a purpose. There’s something bigger than just me, I’m here for the clients, I’m here to be of service in their darkest hours…it’s really a gift, and a privilege, and an honor to be able to do that every day.”

The Retreat’s emergency shelter provides housing for up to 18 adults and children. Comprehensive services are available to all residents and include counseling, legal advocacy, educational programs, and case management. Nonresidential clients, who make up the majority of Retreat clients, access all services through the East Hampton, Riverhead, and Hauppauge offices.

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