Poverello House's longtime executive director is retiring after nearly a quarter-century of helping the homeless and needy in downtown Fresno, and a Sanger native has been hired to take over.
Jim Connell, who has led the nonprofit for the past 23 years, will step down at the end of the year, Poverello House announced Monday.
Taking Connell's place is Cruz Avila, who brings 15 years of experience in human and social services, most recently as manager of resident services at Housing with Heart, a nonprofit agency based in Irvine.
"We are grateful to Jim Connell for his years of service to Poverello House," said Jim Kinter, chairman of the board. "Jim's business background and leadership skills provided stability and growth through trying times and he touched the lives of thousands of our clients through the years."
Connell will serve Poverello House as a consultant during the next three months as Avila begins his new position.
"In Cruz we found a talented and dynamic leader who has a tremendous passion for our mission," said Kinter. "We are grateful to Jim for staying on during the transition. His institutional memory will be invaluable to Cruz and the board."
Avila holds degrees from Fresno City College and the University of Phoenix. He earned a master's degree in organizational leadership from Brandman University.
Prior to Housing with Heart, Avila spent three years at the Riverside County Office of Education as a resource manager and counselor, and worked in Sanger as a program director for Friday Night Live, a youth-driven nonprofit agency.
During his career, Avila has developed alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention programs and established successful mentoring programs. He's been a successful grant writer and supervised large and diverse work forces, the Poverello House said in a news release Monday.
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