Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation Supports North Carolina’s Nonprofit Leaders Investing $2.5 million in sabbatical awards for nonprofit leaders over 25 years

Announcements, News

2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation's Sabbatical Program.

Since 1990, the Foundation has honored North Carolina's nonprofit leaders for their dedicated service and commitment to the sector by awarding up to five sabbaticals per year. Established as one of the first of its kind, the sabbatical is intended to provide veteran nonprofit leaders with an extended break from work that allows time to focus on their personal needs, growth and self-revitalization so that they can return to their organizations with a rejuvenated spirit and renewed sense of focus. Recipients are encouraged to spend up to six months engaging in activities that interest them and that are unrelated to their field of work. Since the program's inception, the Foundation has invested $2.5 million in sabbatical awards to more than 120 nonprofit leaders.

"It is such an inspiration to learn about the commitment of nonprofit leaders who are dedicated to improving the quality of life for the people and communities they serve across North Carolina," said Jane Patterson, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation trustee and chair of the Sabbatical committee. "This program is important to ensuring that we retain strong leadership within the nonprofit sector. Our hope is that time away will provide these leaders with what they need to come back refreshed and ready to work on behalf of the citizens of our state."

"The most creative and inspirational leaders in the nonprofit sector are extremely committed to the work they do," said Leslie Winner, executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. "Because of this selfless dedication, they can reach a point where they have completely expended their personal energy. A break allows them time to re-energize in order to return to work with fresh ideas and newfound momentum, making this program not only beneficial to the recipient, but also to the staff, board and communities they serve."

The Foundation recently announced the recipients of its 2015 Sabbatical awards. This year's recipients are:

  • June Blotnick, Executive Director of Clean Air Carolina (Charlotte, NC)
  • Wayne Lofton, CEO/President of Community Boys and Girls Club (Wilmington, NC)
  • Sallie McLean, Program Director of Center for Community Action (Maxton, NC)
  • Kate Pett, Executive Director of Asheville City Schools Foundation (Asheville, NC)
  • Matt Wasson, Director of Programs for Appalachian Voices (Boone, NC)

Profiles of the 2015 recipients are below:

June Blotnick is executive director of Clean Air Carolina in Charlotte, NC. The organization works to ensure cleaner air quality for all North Carolinians and reduce sources of pollution across the state. Hired as its first employee, June has helped build and lead the organization for the past nine years. One colleague says "she has not only built Clean Air Carolina to accommodate a talented and committed staff, but also a strong Board and a cohort of volunteers fully committed to her and to Clean Air Carolina." June currently manages staff in their Charlotte and Chapel Hill offices and oversees five programs. She is also responsible for the development of new partnerships with a number of stakeholders across the community.

Wayne Lofton is the CEO/president of Community Boys and Girls Club in Wilmington, NC. The organization works to inspire and enable young people, especially youth from disadvantaged circumstances and backgrounds, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens that achieve their highest goals. Wayne has been with the Community Boys and Girls Club since 2006. One colleague describes him as "an outstanding leader, humanitarian, and individual of high moral and ethical character." In addition to managing all administrative personnel, budget and finance, and fundraising, he is also responsible for overseeing program development, board development, marketing development, communications and strategic planning.

Sallie McLean is program director of the Center for Community Action's Southeast Regional Re-Entry Program – a comprehensive program for reentry of ex-offenders transitioning from prison to the community. Sallie has been involved with the Center for Community Action for more than 20 years, 8 of which have been in her current position. She is described by one colleague as, "one of the most committed persons that I know that seeks to protect and promote the rights and privileges of marginalized people and communities." Her responsibilities include, but are not limited to: coordinating three county-based Re-Entry Councils in Robeson, Hoke, and Scotland Counties and their work with probation offices, prisons, and program partners in each county; coordinating support services provision with program participants, including transportation, housing, counseling, medical needs, food, clothing, and job-related supplies; and serving as liaison with the community and the prison system.

Kate Pett is executive director of the Asheville City Schools Foundation in Asheville, NC. The mission of the Asheville City Schools Foundation is to engage and mobilize the community to promote the success of every child in the Asheville City Schools through innovative educational activities. Since assuming a leadership position with the organization more than six years ago, Kate has contributed to its significant growth, including creating an afterschool program that serves 250 young teens annually and developing a teacher fellowship program that has been recognized nationally. Her current responsibilities include serving as a liaison to the board of directors, overseeing HR, marketing, fundraising, program development and strategic planning, as well as directly managing select programs. One colleague says that, "Kate keeps her finger on the pulse and maintains a clear understanding of the shifting needs of children and families within the realm of education and outside it."

Matt Wasson is the director of programs for Appalachian Voices and is based in the group’s North Carolina office. Through grassroots organizing, innovative communications and advocacy, Appalachian Voices is cultivating a citizen’s movement to protect the region’s communities and natural heritage by shifting to more just and sustainable energy sources. Matt has been with the organization for 13 years. He is described by one colleague as "an extremely agile and insightful thinker with a rare ability to bridge the gap between theory and practice." His current responsibilities include providing long-range vision and direction for all of Appalachian Voices' programs and overseeing 13 program staff who work in various capacities.

Eligibility for a sabbatical is limited to individuals in paid, full-time leadership positions, who have served their North Carolina nonprofit organizations for at least three years (two of which in a leadership role). Preference is given to individuals with at least five years of experience with their organization. Recipients are selected annually based on a number of selection criteria, including the applicant’s professional accomplishments, evidence of the need for a sabbatical, potential for future contributions in his/her chosen field of work, and the difficulty of his/her work environment. Winners are chosen annually by a sabbatical selection committee comprised of ZSR trustees, staff, past sabbatical recipients and former advisory panel members.