Bob Hennessy has been synonymous with the San Jose Conservation Corps and Charter School since he was hired to establish the organization in 1987. But after 27 years as executive director, Hennessy will be heading off into retirement this June.
"This is a good thing," said Hennessy, who plans to continue in volunteer work after taking some well-deserved time off. "We have a good program in place. I've done my work, and I hope I've done it well."
It's difficult to measure the impact he's had in San Jose in those decades. The numbers are impressive -- 23,000 young people have benefitted from the San Jose Conservation Corps' recycling program and its Youth Build construction training program.
It's harder to capture the tremendous good done by its charter school, which was established in 2002 and has helped high school dropouts earn their diplomas while learning valuable job skills. But I bet you'd get some good answers from the approximately 100 students who'll be getting their diplomas Friday at the school's Winter Commencement ceremonies at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds.
And while every student's success is his or her own, I think it'll be hard to replace Hennessy, a gregarious native of Ireland who nonetheless immersed himself in San Jose's civic life. But the board must try and has begun a national search in hopes of having his successor in place by late spring.
BIG CHANGE FOR ABILITIES UNITED: The impending summer seems to be inspiring retirement as Lynda Steele will be stepping down in June from her position as executive director of Palo Alto-based Abilities United.
Steele has been in the position for 20 years, but she's been an advocate for people with developmental and other disabilities since she moved to the Bay Area back in 1973. Abilities United just finished celebrating its 50th year, which Steele took as a good cue.
"Now is the perfect time to transition to a new generation of leadership to lead the organization into our next 50 years," she said.
LUNAFEST RETURNS: Three self-described "women on a mission" -- Lani Luthard, Dr. Mindy Pelz of Maximized Living and Amy Rueda from Authentic Skin Remedies -- have been busy getting the word out that LunaFest, a traveling festival of nine short films made by and for women, will return to the San Jose Woman's Club on Jan. 31.
The festival, which is in its 13th year, includes films on such topics as women's health, motherhood, aging, body image and cultural diversity. There's drama, animation and comedy -- just don't call 'em "chick flicks." The event, which starts at 6:30 p.m., sounds like it should be a lot of fun, with dinner by Catered Too!, wine from the Vegan Vine and, of course, popcorn.
Tickets are $50 for adults -- that's women and men, too -- and $20 for college students and young people under 19. Get tickets and more information at www.lunafest.org/sanjose0131.