At 9 a.m. July 2, Cynthia Hull officially began her duties as the new Executive Director of United Community Ministries. But, this is no novice at the skillful art of guiding a multi-faceted, non-profit organization whose mission encompasses everything from providing basic family needs to the prevention of homelessness.
During her more than three decades of non-profit, social engineering leadership, primarily in Northern Virginia, Hull served for 14 years as President/Executive Director of Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR) of Arlington County,Inc., which serves communities throughout Arlington County, as well as the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church. Prior to that she was Deputy Executive Director and Volunteer Coordinator for Fairfax County OAR.
She has worked in the fields of mental health, senior care, programs for substance abuse and been a college teacher. Her own volunteer activities have included service as President and Board member of numerous, state, national, and international associations, each focused on citizen involvement, community building, and professional development.
"When I saw the ad for this position I thought it would be a really good match. UCM is an organization for which I've had so much respect for so long," Hull said sitting in her new office at UCM Headquarters, 7511 Fordson Road, just off Route 1 in Mount Vernon District.
Hull is returning to Northern Virginia after giving herself "a little sabbatical," as she put it. "It was time to take a break after working in the social services field for 30 years," she said. "Now it's time to get back into action."
A native of Ohio, Hull went to high school in Miami, Florida, and college in Tampa and Gainesville. She holds a Bachelors and Masters in Sociology from the University of South Florida and is working on her doctorate at the University of Florida. She is also the mother of a grown son, Duncan Holly, 32, who lives with his wife Kristin in Bar Harbor, Maine.
Throughout her career she has promoted issues of justice and the understanding of the complexity of family relationships, mental illness, substance abuse, poverty and victimization. She has
concentrated on the effectiveness of programs and services on the real lives of participants.
One of the things I really appreciate about UCM is that's it a really good representation of our community. Its work and programs involve the entire community," Hull said.
"I believe that UCM tries to look at the total family that's in need. That is obvious through their entire community involvement," she said.
"I also believe there are many issues that aren't addressed or not addressed adequately. The main reason for that is resources. Every non-profit is feeling the pinch with so many funds being cut back," Hull explained.
"We also need to deal with the realities of immigration in this area. The government can't expect us to be INS agents. We don't have the resources and that's not our role," she emphasized.
"In addition to the need to spend more time with teenagers, because it's such a vulnerable age, we also, at the same time, need to provide more services to our seniors. We are seeing more and more seniors reentering the role of parents," Hull noted.
"Wherever there are human beings there are unmet needs. That's where UCM's size and community involvement are critical. It has the ability to leverage both money and time to help those in need," she insisted.
"We can piggyback unmet programs onto what we are already doing. We don't need to reinvent the wheel. The wheel is already there. We need to coordinate the activities of non-profit organizations throughout the area," Hull said.
THOSE INSIGHTS are what impressed UCM Board member Ron Fitzsimmons when he served on the candidate interview committee to select a new executive director. "To me her selection was a no brainer. She was the easy choice as far as I was concerned," he said.
"She has a great deal of experience, she's energizing, and she's going to be a great fund raiser -- and that is really needed in these tight times. I'm very excited about her taking over as UCM's executive director," Fitzsimmons said.
That assessment was buttressed by Elizabeth McNally, deputy executive director, Program Operations, UCM. "She's very grounded and very smart. Her work with OAR is going to be very helpful to us," she said.
"Her experience and background will help her to get focused very
quickly. Although she has things to learn about us, I also see a great opportunity for us to learn a great deal from her," McNally said.
As Hull explained, one of the things that made her excited about joining UCM was the Board's "passion for UCM's mission. Both the Board and staff have a real investment in making UCM even more successful than it has been," she said.
"I'm hoping we will have a renewed role in the community. There is a perception that the benefits of an organization like UCM only apply to the clients of that organization. That is just not so. Those benefits apply to everyone in the community. Whatever makes us stronger makes everyone stronger," Hull stated.
"I'm looking forward to a really intense learning experience. Right now, as far as UCM is concerned, I'm the student. The Board and staff are the teachers," she emphasized.
On July 12 those "teachers" are planning a reception for the community to personally meet their new "student." It will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at UCM's main office on Fordson Road. Those wishing to attend are asked to RSVP to Gale Curcio, UCM development director, at 703-768-7106, Ext. 327.