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Auberle COO Darla Poole Earns Distinguished Alumni Recognition from Pitt

Auberle COO Darla Poole, MSW, LSW, was recognized by the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work as a 2022 Distinguished Alumni. This honor is presented to alumni who demonstrate the highest levels of professional integrity, make significant contributions to the advancement of the profession, and support policies ensuring equal rights for all people. We are so proud of Darla and grateful for her 34 years of service at Auberle!

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“The 2022 class of Distinguished Alumni is made up of impressive, capable individuals, and Darla’s inclusion among them is not at all surprising,” said David DeJong, PhD, who serves as Senior Vice Chancellor for Business and Operations at Pitt, as well as Chair of the Pauline Auberle Foundation Board of Directors. “She has tremendous command of the information she has to know as COO, and she employs cutting-edge techniques to help Auberle achieve success. Furthermore, she lets her directors shine, and her passion for what she does is evident. That passion, combined with her knowledge and experience, makes her an exceptional leader.”

Shortly after Darla graduated from the University of Pittsburgh Social of Work in 1988, Auberle sought a manager to build one of the first family preservation programs in the state. Darla, who had gained firsthand experience in family work through an internship experience, found the job in the local newspaper. She applied, was hired, and successfully grew Auberle’s Family Preservation Programs over the next several years. This was the first of numerous milestones Auberle would achieve thanks to Darla’s leadership as a manager, a director, and in her current role as COO.

Darla’s expertise has earned her invitations to speak nationally and internationally on developing and replicating evidence-based programs with fidelity. She says the challenge of tackling something new and different every day is one of the best parts of her job. The most rewarding part is helping families with challenges make positive, lasting changes in their lives.

“To work in a place like Auberle, we need to have a fundamental belief that people can change. It’s not our place to judge anyone for what they do or where they turn in order to survive,” Darla said. “Instead, we can help individuals and families envision what their futures can look like, and then plant the seeds to empower them to achieve it. It’s a privilege to be able to help lift people up in this way. Getting to see our clients’ amazing progress — especially at annual events like the All-Star Banquet — is the best. That’s what our work is all about.”  

Darla leads and collaborates with numerous team members and colleagues at Auberle. Their firsthand experience working alongside her reflects the very integrity and professionalism which earned her the Distinguished Alumni honor.

“Darla is exceptionally skilled in both her knowledge of programs and motivating our fellow staff,” said Auberle CEO John Lydon. “Even during times of great stress, like during the COVID-19 pandemic, she empowers the people around her not only to continue to function, but to excel. Because of her superb people skills, creativity, and financial and business acumen, everyone who works with Darla knows they can come to her when a problem arises, and she will lead the way to a solution.”

“For seven years, Darla has been my supervisor, and no challenge feels surmountable because of how supportive she is,” said Aimee Plowman, Auberle’s director of Transition Age Youth Services. “She also has a gift for remaining calm and collected no matter how hectic our work becomes. That’s important in a leader, because it fosters calmness and focus among those she supervises as well.”

“I’ve had the phenomenal pleasure of working with Darla for many years. She is a tireless worker, a great listener, and an unflappable leader,” shared Bob Coury, former Auberle Board Chair. “The work she and her colleagues do can be quite emotional, stressful, and at times, thankless. So to be recognized by Pitt in this way is a well-deserved honor. I wish we could clone Darla; she’s that excellent at what she does.”

Beyond Auberle, Darla gives back to the community through another nonprofit organization — one that she and her husband, Joe, founded together. “Gray Paws Sanctuary is my other passion,” Darla said. “I’ve always had a love of animals. Gray Paws Sanctuary rescues senior dogs to ensure they have the best possible quality of life before they cross the ‘rainbow bridge.’ Gray Paws also helps families in crisis when a loved one passes away or has to go into assisted living. Our rescue is all about senior dogs — but their humans benefit, too. Another great thing about Auberle is that John and our team have supported me in pursuit of this passion as well.”

Again, we want to extend our congratulations to Darla on achieving this honor, and our heartfelt thanks for everything she does for Auberle, our clients, and our community. Thank you, Darla!