The nonprofit AthFest Educates has hired Jill Helme as its new executive director effective Apr. 14, replacing founder Jared Bailey, who resigned in January.
Helme moved to Athens in November when her husband took a job as assistant to UGA Vice President for Student Affairs Victor Wilson. The Fort Lauderdale, FL, native got her bachelor's degree in English and journalism from the University of Florida (please don't hold it against her) then went to the University of Pennsylvania for a master's degree in nonprofit development and started a small consulting firm focusing on youth, education and nonprofit board training while living briefly in Chicago.
"That combination is exactly what they need right now," Helme said.
Her emphasis will be on making AthFest Educates run efficiently, ensuring the nonprofit's grants for music and arts make the biggest possible impact, communicating that impact to the community, providing support for grant recipients and developing a longer-range strategic plan.
"If AthFest wants to grow, what do they want to accomplish in that 3–5 year timespan?" she said.
Don't expect major changes to AthFest Educate's two major fundraisers, the annual half-marathon and June music festival. Ultimately, she's in charge of both events, but Helme said she'll rely on the nonprofit's extremely hardworking board to do the heavy lifting of organizing those events so that she can focus on the education and organizational development side of things.
"Clearly, they've got the music festival and the half marathon down pat," she said.
Russ Hallauer, the marketing chairman for the AthFest board, released the following statement on Helme's hiring:
The AthFest Educates Board is delighted to have Jill on board. She brings expertise in youth-focused, non-profit leadership that will enable the organization to support more music and arts education programs in Athens-Clarke Co.
With three successful AthHalf Half Marathons under our belt and the 18th annual AthFest Music and Arts Festival on the horizon, AthFest Educates is in a position to dramatically increase its support of music and education programs in Athens-Clarke county. In order to do so, the organization needed someone with expertise and experience in non-profit leadership and educational program development. We are thrilled to have Jill in place as Executive Director to lead us down that road.
With Jill as Executive Director, I think you will see AthFest Educates come in to its own as a music and arts education organization. We have an incredibly dedicated Board and group of volunteers that excel at promoting and staging fundraising events. We will continue with the amazing traditions of AthFest and AthHalf, but with Jill, we also now have an expert in non-profit leadership which will benefit the community and enable us to bring more, and better, music and Arts education to children in Athens-Clarke Co.