Suzanne Shenfil began her career with Fremont in 1978. She has a Master's Degree in Social Welfare Administration from the University of California at Berkeley, and was named Alumni of the Year in 2004. In 2010, her name was added in the Alameda County Women’s Hall of Fame, an award given to outstanding women for achievements and contributions to the well-being of Alameda County citizens. Ms. Shenfil currently manages a department of more than 70 employees with an operating budget of $14 million, including the City's Community Development Block Grant Program (CDGB) and over a half a million dollars in public service grants to local human service nonprofits. The department utilizes over 150 community volunteers and university interns contributing over 30,000 hours annually to the delivery of social services.
The primary focus of the department is to work to support a vibrant community through the creation and maintenance of services that empower individuals, strengthen families, encourage self-sufficiency, enhance neighborhoods, and foster a high quality of life for all residents. For each general fund dollar the City invests in Human Services, the department provides a 300% return on the City's investment.
Under Suzanne's direction the department has been recognized for its innovation and its ability to build community partnerships:
- In 1999, the department completed the development of a $12 million, 55,000 square foot Family Resource Center, which co-locates 25 State, County, City, and nonprofit agencies serving individuals and families. The center operates as a collaborative working to improve delivery of services to consumers, sharing resources and training opportunities, and designing more integrated ways to work with families with complex needs. In 2001, the federal department of Housing and Urban Development recognized the Fremont Family Resource Center as one of the top 100 projects nationwide (out of 2,800 HUD applicants) and awarded it a "Best of the Best" award for best practice.
- In 2004, Fremont's Human Services Department, in conjunction with the Tri-City Elder Coalition, was one of eight sites from a field of 487 national competitors to be awarded a Community Partnership for Older Adults grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Through an extensive community dialogue process in nine languages, a senior action plan, "Pathways for Positive Aging", has been developed and is currently being implemented to improve the community long-term care system for older adults and their families.
- The newly launched Community Ambassador Program is drawing notoriety from all comers. The project, also funded through Robert Wood Johnson, is training volunteers from six of Fremont's faith and cultural based communities about issues that confront older adults and community resources to assist them. The Ambassadors from such groups as, the Muslim Support Network, India Community Center, Sikhs Engaged in Volunteer Activities, Taiwanese Help Association, Centerville Presbyterian Church, and Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish will assist seniors in their communities, in their own languages in places where their seniors feel most comfortable congregating. All cultural groups will continue to meet to learn about each other and to share best practices. A replicable training curriculum is being developed by the Human Services Department in conjunction with staff members from San Jose State University and Stanford's Geriatric Institute.
- The Department's Caregiver Support Program, Family Service Team at the Fremont Family Resource Center, and Senior Peer Counseling Program have all been recognized by the Alameda County Mental Health Association; the Peer Counseling Program also received an award from the International City Manager's Association.