Thursday, August 9, 2007

McConnell Resigns Help of Ojai Post

Executive director moves on as Help expands into West Campus. McConnell is pictured handing out an award to Debbie Thorne at Help of Ojai’s recent Walk2Help event,

By Nao Braverman
After a year and a half of hard work and getting the West Campus on its feet, Debbie McConnell, executive director of Help of Ojai, is resigning to focus on maternal responsibilities.
“With the eldest of my two children starting kindergarden this year, I really want to be there for my kids,” she said. “I’m sure any mother would understand.”
Though a perfect fit for the longtime Ojai nonprofit which serves the local needy and elderly, McConnell recently realized that she wanted more time to be with her family.
With 12 years as the executive director of the California Central Coast Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association behind her, McConnell was unanimously voted in to be director of Help of Ojai in March 2006, to take the place of former executive director Marlene Spencer, who had been with the long-standing nonprofit for 31 years.
Having worked in nonprofit management with the senior population for most of her working life, the position at Help of Ojai allowed McConnell to build on her previous experience while working within her home community. Instead of commuting to Santa Barbara every day, as she had during her tenure with the Alzheimer’s Association, her position at Help of Ojai allowed her to stay close to home and really invest in her work, she said.
And that’s exactly what she did. With the organization’s expansion onto the vacated Honor Farm property off of Baldwin Road, McConnell dove into preparation for the new West Campus, working late nights and weekends until she realized it was going to be too much to juggle with family obligations.
“It was really exciting, there are going to be a lot of incredible opportunities,” she said. “But it would also be a lot of time and energy on my part. More than I can spare.”
Though West Campus preparation for the organization’s expansion was an invigorating experience, McConnell knew that her responsibilities would only increase, leaving her less time to tend to her 5-year-old and 3-year-old kids.
What’s next for McConnell? A longtime Oak View resident, she plans to stay in the Ojai Valley.
“I’m just looking forward to spending more time with my kids,” she said.”I don’t want to miss this critical point in their lives.”
As for Help of Ojai, board members are in the process of deciding on how to fill McConnell’s position. Either a replacement will be elected or a search initiated, said Gene Daffern, president of the board of directors.
McConnell’s final day at Help of Ojai will be Sept. 30.
“She has done an outstanding job,” said Daffern. “She has really done a lot for Help of Ojai.”

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