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Nearly two years after taking the helm, Elisabeth Farnsworth announced she’s stepping down from the Wilson Area Habitat for Humanity to take a position with a Rocky Mount marketing company.
The nonprofit launched a search for a new executive director this week and the executive committee plans to review resumes, interview candidates and make an offer in the coming weeks. Farnsworth plans to stay on board until mid-May to help train her replacement before becoming an account coordinator at Carney & Co.
“The new director first and foremost has to have a passion for our mission and working with our homeowners,” Farnsworth said. “We have a great team at the ReStore, but part of the job is overseeing that and doing all the organization’s financials, so having experience managing staff and doing administrative duties is a definite plus.”
After four years with the Arts Council of Wilson, Farnsworth took the leadership role at Habitat.
“We’ve been in Wilson for almost 20 years, but when I got the job, a lot of people didn’t even realize we had a Habitat for Humanity in town,” she recalled. “With my marketing background, I worked hard to spread the word and clear up misconceptions. Some people thought we just give away free houses, so I worked on getting people to really understand what we do and understand how we help people help themselves.”
She’s spent the bulk of her time organizing, streamlining and updating processes as well as improving the operations of the ReStore at 626 Ward Blvd.
“The store turnaround is another big highlight because we’re now grossing four or five times what we used to each month,” she said. “All our administrative costs are now covered by the ReStore and we also have a building fund because of the success at the store.”
Farnsworth has been proud of how the community has embraced the organization and supported the efforts to build not just one, but two women’s homes for their families.
“Committing to build one house right after another was big for Wilson, but they can do that because the organization is more financially stable now than it was before,” she said. “The increase of donations from individuals and the success of the ReStore has given us a good foundation, so as that support grows, the organization can live up to the goal of serving even more families.”
While Farnsworth has enjoyed her time with Habitat and plans to continue supporting the organization just as she has continued with the arts council, she said was eager to focus her energies on her passion for marketing and communicating with people instead of carrying such heavy administrative responsibilities.
“During the interview process at Carney & Co., I was asked a really great question: ‘Can you translate your passion for community organizations and nonprofits to the private sector?’” she recalled. “I said, ‘Absolutely, because when companies are doing well, they are supporting families, creating jobs and doing good in the community.’”
The mother of three said now that the annual Habitat Roast is behind her, she plans to ready everything for a smooth transition to the new director. She’ll also work on coordinating volunteers for the construction of a house on Privette Road, an April 28 celebration at Westwood Park for a family that has paid off their Habitat home and a fundraiser on May 14 called Houses for Habitat. The $25 tickets go on sale next week — available at the ReStore, Framer’s Alley in Elm City or by contacting the Habitat office — for the luncheon at the Wilson Women’s Club with a keynote speech from potter Dan Finch, a silent auction of birdhouses painted by local artists and raffles of Finch’s birdhouses.
“Having affordable, nice homes to raise your family in makes a difference for generations to come, so I hope people continue to support the Wilson Area Habitat for Humanity,” she said.