By SHANNON WATKINS
“It’s hard not to be enthusiastic about this position and this Y and about Pulaski,” said new Hensel Eckman YMCA Executive Director Allison Haller Hunter. “It’s a great place to come back and live. I have had people ask, ‘Why would you want to come back to Pulaski?’ and I ask, ‘Why would you not want to come back to Pulaski?’ It’s a great community.”
Appointed by the YMCA board, Hunter is a Pulaski native who lived in Richmond for several years before returning home to be closer to her parents, Dr. Tommy and Lil Haller, in November 2012. She lives on Claytor Lake with her husband, John.
She got a job in Floyd, but found the long commute punishing. Before too long, though, her mother came to the rescue.
“My mom called me the day she heard about this job and said, ‘Allison! You have to apply, this is your job!’” Hunter recalled. “I said ‘It really is,’ once I read the job description, I was like, ‘I’ve come home. This is it.’”
Her journey came full circle, given that she has a lot of history with the Hensel Eckman Y.
“If I seem very excited, it’s because I grew up in this Y,” she said. “You know, we had sockhops here on Saturday night, and that’s where we all came. Saturday mornings my mom would drop off me and six of my girlfriends and pick us up at 5 in the afternoon. I have those memories, and I’m excited to be back here.”
Board President Dave Adkins and Interim Directors Dan Grubb and Debbie Maxwell are happy with their decision to hire Hunter.
“She’s in charge of the whole shooting match,” said Adkins. “I am very pleased with her background and experiences, but I am just as happy that we were able to find someone locally that is so well qualified to help us continue to grow and become a stronger asset to the county.”
“Her enthusiasm is probably what sold us the most,” said Maxwell, “because you see it in every sentence that she speaks.”
Hunter said of them, “They’ve laid great groundwork for me. I think that they’ve done tremendous work. They’ve done a great job of starting to expand the programs here.”
As for her ambitions at the Y, “Community outreach is gonna be a big focus for me,” she says. “Getting partnerships in, I really want to grow the memberships.”
After attending Furman University in South Carolina, Hunter lived in Powhatan, near Richmond, and worked for Circuit City. “I probably would still be with Circuit City this same day, because I loved that company in Richmond,” she said, “but when they went belly up, I had to look for something else, and that’s when I got into nonprofit work.”
Her first venture into nonprofit was the Goochland County Fire and Rescue, with 240 volunteers, as business manager, putting in a database for members and making sure they were up to date on training and certification. From there she went to Goochland Powhatan Community Services, an organization that deals with intellectual disabilities and mental health and substance abuse issues.
“We had a wing that was nonprofit called Cedarwoods Residential and I was very ingrained in doing a lot of fundraising through it,” said Hunter, “and really loved that side of it. I spent six years with them, and then I kind of got, it landed in my lap, an executive director job for Wintergreen Adaptive Sports. Just a fabulous organization, and I’m happy to say I’m now a board member of them.”
Wintergreen Adaptive Sports helps the handicapped enjoy outdoor sports and even has a weekend set aside for veterans. Hunter smiles, “It gives me shivers talking about it, because their mission is so in line with what I feel like nonprofit work should be about.”
“I’m big about volunteering,” she continues. “I’m hoping that I’ll be grounded now in Pulaski and get involved in a lot of organizations. Community outreach is it for me.”
She will take her new position on June 24.