Meet the New Focus On Renewal Executive Director

Cindy Haines, a former senior management analyst at the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development for nearly 20 years, was recently named executive director of Focus On Renewal (FOR).

We sat down with Haines to discuss her goals for Focus On Renewal, how she plans to address our ‘food gap’ and how her leadership will impact the organization.

Why did choose to become the Executive Director of FOR?
FOR combines all the best things. FOR’s mission is to lift people up with the development of the spirit, mind and body. This holistic approach and the vision that it entails resonates with me. When we talk about the development of the body, we have our food pantry for the most at-risk amongst us. We also have our lunch program, which serves 50-70 people everyday Monday through Friday.

When we talk about developing the mind, we have the Sto-Rox Library – the place where kids are so eager to be apart of it, they are waiting outside front door before we open.

The spirit is enlivened through the arts. We have cartooning and drawing in the lower level of The Father Ryan Arts Center, a pottery studio, dance on the second floor, and we invite people to use our art gallery for exhibitions. This holistic health and spirit, mind and body connectedness really appeals to me.

What are your short-term goals for Focus On Renewal?
Right now, my goal is to invigorate several programs. A lot of the programs we are aiming to start up focus on young people who are in elementary school, middle school and high school. We already have a good reputation with Positive Parenting Family Support Center and Family Foundations for youth ages 0-8.

We are taking a look at kids who are in elementary school through high school to set some leadership programs on course – early on. The intent ultimately is that FOR would like to have a youth leadership advisory board so that high school kids feel much more invested, involved and heard. If we want them to be a part of a decision-making process we have to hear what they have to say.

Several of the grants we’re submitting at the moment are about empowerment and youth programming, which is essentially what the core of leadership is. I believe everyone leads by example. And, everyone has to believe they are a leader.

What is your long-term goal for FOR?
My goal is to have a cultural epicenter for diverse celebration of the arts, education and future leadership. We want to begin now and build out much later an enlivened culture that is integrated with the art gallery, the theater and the lobby area of The Father Ryan Arts Center.

For example, if you are doing something like celebrating McKees Rocks women during Women’s History Month, you could have local women who are active in a rotary be on a panel to discuss women’s issues or female-owned businesses. While you’re doing that, you could also have a photograph exhibit of various McKees Rocks women from 1890-present day. We learn a lot from the past and it’s this joining of the past and present that will launch us into the future.

How do you plan to address McKees Rocks’ ‘food gap’ in the short-term?
I am writing a grant right now for ‘The Family Table.’ It will be a program in our lower level where we will build out a commercial kitchen. Here, people can learn about nutritious cooking – not only how to find the right and fresh ingredients, but also how to cook them because to some folks, it’s a mystery as to how to cook certain vegetables. Sometimes the questions are: What is this vegetable? What do you do with it?

The Family Table is also about the celebration. The Family Table will literally be where people get to meet and enjoy what they’ve cooked. I really want it to be a family affair. The next step is to get it funded and the funding request is already out.

How will your leadership impact FOR?
I see Focus On Renewal as an evolving organization. We are evolving from viewing people as employees to now – partners, evolving from hierarchy to work teams. FOR is moving from power and authority to intuition, insight and enlightenment.

It’s a different care that you give your organization and it’s a different energy that you’re letting evolve almost organically from what people need and want. This is a nourishing way of holding an organization in the palm of your hand with a lot of gentleness and kindness.

By Amanda King