WomenSource will enter 2022 with a new leader at the helm.
The Gainesville-Hall County nonprofit recently named Blythe Hammons its next executive director, filling the shoes of outgoing director Elizabeth Burnette, who has held the title for five years.
Hammons is no stranger to empowering women — a premise WomenSource was built upon nearly 15 years ago. She joins the organization by way of Gateway Domestic Violence Center, where she has served in various capacities ranging from family advocate to, most recently, advocacy supervisor, since 2014.
Hammons said she wasn’t even eyeing a career change when she applied to the executive director position following Burnette’s announcement that she’d be leaving the organization to pursue full-time ministry. But, Hammons said, she decided to “go for it” and let the chips fall where they may.
“I have been very, very happy with Gateway and have worked under superb leadership,” Hammons said. “I truly did think I would be a good fit (for WomenSource) just because of my personality and what I’ve done over the last almost eight years in Hall County. I wasn’t sure if everyone else would feel like I was a good fit, but I was at peace with going for it.”
According to WomenSource’s board chair Shelley Shope, Hammons’ background in nonprofit work the skillset she’s developed through “working with women from all walks of life will be an asset to our organization.”
Looking toward a Dec. 31 departure with mixed emotions, Hammons credits Gateway with shaping her leadership skills and understanding of the inner workings of the nonprofit world.
“I’m very excited for the change of pace and difference in the nonprofit structure I’ll be going into, but I definitely feel some sadness to be leaving such an incredible organization,” she said. “Gateway has definitely been a huge bridge for me in building my career. I love nonprofits in Hall County — it’s such a unique community for nonprofits. Community isn’t like this everywhere. The nonprofits and the partnerships are something special.”
Though she isn’t a native of Gainesville, Hammons’ parents were born and raised here before military life took them to New Orleans. When Hurricane Katrina ravaged the area, they returned to their old stomping grounds with college-age Hammons, who transferred to the University of North Georgia from Louisiana State, and their high school-age son.
“This community opened their arms and said, ‘Hey, welcome home. We’ll get your children in school, we’ll find you a place to live,’” Hammons said. “By the time they got here, the community that they hadn’t been a part of in 25 years helped find them a rental house while we figured out our damaged house in Louisiana — immediately, it felt like this is where home is, and this has been home since.”
According to Hammons, the trauma of Hurricane Katrina was one of the catalysts that spurred her interest in nonprofit work.
“I think it had a lot to do with embracing the helping skills that help people cope with different things,” she said. “I love the relationships that you build by not only helping clients, but by just being in the field of helping and empowering and having the ability to make better — whether it’s a full community, a target population or individuals”
As she prepares to step into the role of executive director in January and deliver her fourth child in February, Hammons said she’s maintaining an open mind and aims to further the programs implemented under Burnette’s leadership, particularly the organization’s fundraising campaigns and “lunch-and-learn” events.
“My ultimate goal is to grow the nonprofit, to continue with their mission, which I think is so important: empowering women with education and connection,” Hammons said. “I am open-minded to go in and work with the board to match the needs of the community, whatever that may be. A lot of big changes (are) coming, but I work well with change; I like it and embrace it. That’s what life’s about.”