By JEN CARDINES
New executive directors have been established for Bread For Life (BFL) and Southington Youth Services (SYS), but they are no strangers to leadership positions…or each other. Donna Ayer and Christina Simms, coincidentally cousins, are former directors at the Southington YMCA.
Both women have ample experience working with the community, giving them an edge with their new roles. Southington YMCA executive director John Myers called them “a perfect fit” for their new jobs. “They are both rock stars that make positive impacts to their organizations,” he said.
With 28 years in her career with the YMCA and 11 years as their Community Development Director under her belt, Ayer is ready to fill Eldon Hafford’s shoes at Bread For Life. She will be the new BFL executive director effective Nov. 1.
“The Y will always have my heart,” said Ayer, but she said that she’s excited for her new role and to carry out Hafford’s legacy.
BFL Board Chair Mike Soltys said that Ayers was chosen because of her long-time commitment to helping Southington citizens.
“She brings to this role an outstanding background that will allow Bread for Life to build off the strong foundation Eldon has built,” Soltys said in a BFL press release.
“Bread for Life is serving a critical need in our community ensuring that no one goes hungry,” said Ayer. “I look forward to working with the staff, volunteers, board, churches, civic groups, and community agencies to continue this crucial mission.”
Christina Simms is leaving her title as Senior Program and Membership Director with the YMCA to serve as Sue Saucier’s successor with SYS. She will begin her new role serving the town’s youth programs in October. “I have a background in social work and after a wonderful career at the Y I feel ready to take on a new challenge and opportunity, to make a difference in our community,” she said.
Like her cousin, Simms has worked with the YMCA for many years, making her departure bittersweet. “It will be difficult to leave after 19 years,” she said, “but when you are a part of the Y and a member of the community you never really leave.”
The YMCA works with BFL and SYS through community partnerships, so the new executive directors will still be involved in what they know and love.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jen Cardines, email her at JCardines@SouthingtonObserver.com.