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‘I cannot help but be a pastor’: WomenSource director Elizabeth Burnette is returning to her roots
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After five years as the executive director of Gainesville-Hall County nonprofit WomenSource, Elizabeth Burnette is heeding the call of full-time ministry at St. Luke on the Gainesville Square. WomenSource is accepting applications for its next leader, to whom Burnette will pass the torch this December. (Photo courtesy Elizabeth Burnette)

Women who’ve wondered how it feels to walk in Elizabeth Burnette’s shoes will soon have an opportunity to find out. Unable to ignore full-time ministry’s persistent tug, the five-year executive director of WomenSource is passing the torch this December.

Established roughly 14 years ago, WomenSource exists to empower local women via educational programs ranging from financial and legal resources to health and wellness workshops, as well as networking events. One such event — the inaugural Power of the Purse fundraiser — served as the catalyst that kickstarted not only the organization, but Burnette’s own engagement with WomenSource as a newcomer to Gainesville. 

“It was so thrilling to know that I had just moved to a community that found it important enough to have a standalone nonprofit solely focused on encouraging success for women,” Burnette said. 

Several years later, “the stars aligned,” as she describes it, and Burnette was named WomenSource’s first-ever executive director.

“They took a risk and I took a risk, and I think it worked out; we all feel like it was a winning bet,” she said. “Making the decision to have an executive director provided a foundation for the organization that will allow it to continue. And that’s why we’re looking for the next one — we know there’s somebody else out there who can take what has happened over the last 14 years (and build upon it) with structure and consistency.”

While she’ll be shifting her focus to pastor the congregation of St. Luke on the Gainesville square, Burnette is in no way severing her ties with WomenSource and says she’s excited to participate in the organization as just that: a participant.

“I’m leaving (the role) not because there’s any animosity — the only reason I’m leaving is because I can no longer ignore this pull toward being more of a spiritual leader,” she said, noting that WomenSource has no religious or political affiliation, which she affirms. “When you have something that’s so much a part of who you are — it’s just who I am. I’m kind of going back to my roots. This is not a new adventure for me, this is me realizing I cannot help but be a pastor.”

According to WomenSource, the ideal candidate for the next executive director is an “energetic self-starter” with a propensity for relationship building, juggling multiple projects at once and making a difference in the community. 

In the full-time position, the incoming executive director will build upon Burnette’s efforts, paired with their own education and three to five years of supervisory and/or leadership experience, to fulfill WomenSource’s mission of empowering its membership base of more than 100 women.

Candidates need not be presently involved in WomenSource to apply for the position, Burnette noted — in fact, a newcomer may lend a “fresh perspective” from their experience outside the organization. To apply, candidates should submit a cover letter and resume to info@womensource.info.

As she prepares to vacate her position, Burnette is hopeful her successor will value diversity and continue to cultivate it amongst WomenSource’s audience.

“We represent women from all over the community,” she said. “I think it would be wonderful to see some intergenerational work — to see women who have been retired for a while mentor women who are about to retire, or even have women who are looking to retire mentor women who are just starting their careers. We haven’t necessarily tapped that angle yet, but there’s a ton of potential there.”

For Burnette, the transition is bittersweet. While she was instrumental in growing WomenSource into a safe space in which women can find connection and empowerment, Burnette was reciprocally nurtured by the organization.

“I grew up so much and in so many ways that I didn’t even know I needed to mature, both personally and professionally,” she recounted. “WomenSource really helped me grow, and I helped it grow. We grew together. I think I am a product of the mission — our goal is to empower women, and I was absolutely empowered by serving in that position.”

To her successor, whose passion, creativity and foresight will, Burnette hopes, serve to sustain WomenSource as an “important piece of this community,” Burnette gives this message: “Be completely true to who you are. Bring your own gifts and your own talents to the table, because that is what people will gravitate toward; that is what people will support.”

For more information on the role and responsibilities of WomenSource’s executive director, visit www.womensource.info/executivedirector.

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