HONESDALE—The Wayne County Community Foundation (WCCF) announced last week it's due for a change in leadership come October.

The philanthropic organization announced on Thursday, June 13, that Paul Edwards, executive director since August 2006, will be stepping down from his post this fall.

Filling his shoes will be Ryanne Jennings, current executive director of The Cooperage Project.

“I have been fortunate to call Wayne County my home,” said Edwards in a press release, “and to have found a ‘calling’ with the Foundation after my retirement from the Wayne Highlands School District.”

Edwards noted in a later interview that, initially, he didn't expect to helm the foundation for as long as he ended up doing so, “But I saw a real opportunity to make a difference.”

In a press release, Edwards stated, “The Foundation has an incredibly engaged Board, whose support for Wayne County is beyond measure.

“I have also been lucky to have a dedicated group of volunteers without whom I could not have advanced our causes so successfully.”

In his time at the WCCF, the organization's endowment has grown from $2 million to $5 million.

Within that same time frame, the organization also grew its annual scholarship awards from $25,000 to over $88,000 and is able to now provide $40,000 in community grants to local non-profits, up from $20,000 in 2006.

The WCCF also awards nearly $100,000 to school districts in Wayne County each year and donates Scholastic Children's Dictionaries to third graders.

The WCCF reached its 5,000th donated dictionary this year, said Edwards.

Edwards stated in an interview that one of the most important accomplishments garnered during his tenure as executive director was the organization's sustainability.

“We were not only able to keep what was already in place, but to expand it as well,” he said.

In a press release, Edwards stated, “And I would like to personally thank all those who’ve help our Foundation grow by way of their donations or placing their faith in our management of their funds.”

Even though he's stepping down as executive director, Edwards plans to continue assisting the WCCF's philanthropic endeavors as a volunteer, particularly in fund development.

Looking ahead, Edwards noted he's pleased the WCCF chose Jennings as his replacement.

Noting her numerous accomplishments at the Cooperage and elsewhere, Edwards stated he has no doubt she'll excel as executive director of the WCCF.

Offering advice to his successor, Edwards stated “Try to keep the things we have and listen to what people need.”

Incoming Executive Director Jennings has held the same leadership role at The Cooperage Project since February 2016, organizing over 350 events annually.

According to a press release, she hold a degree in Public Health from Temple University and a certificate from the University of Scranton's Nonprofit Leadership Program.

She serves as president of the Honesdale High School Alumni Association, is a board member for SEEDS, volunteers for the Wayne Pike Trails and Waterways Alliance and Honesdale River Project.

“The transition from The Cooperage Project is bittersweet for me.”Jennings said in a press release. “The work at the Cooperage is incredibly inspiring and I love the team of people I work with there, but the opportunity to make a county-wide positive impact on philanthropic initiatives is one that I'm really excited for!”

In a later interview, Jennings noted that, while she has worked in non-profit entities since graduating college, this will be her first role in an organization primarily concerned with raising and doling out funds to other non-profit groups and community individuals.

Eager to face this new facet of community involvement, Jennings said, “I really enjoy learning and challenging myself. I'm looking forward to learning a new part about the non-profit world.”

Helping to jump-start the learning process, “Paul Edwards has been super helpful in mentoring me already,” she said.

Jennings noted one reason she's excited to take on leadership at the Community Foundation is that, “Philanthropy is a great opportunity to create change in a community in a big way.”

She hopes to be able to highlight just how much work the WCCF does and has done the last 28 years for Wayne County, its residents and its non-profit organizations.

She hopes to increase the foundation's name recognition with members of the community.

Jennings will serve as a full-time executive director, able to devote more hours to the foundation's tasks than were previously available when the position was only a part-time.

“It's a big deal that the Bard moved for a full-time position,” said Jennings, noting, “There's only so much you can accomplish working part-time.”

Jennings plans to continue volunteer efforts, particularly with the Pop-Up Club and other youth programming, at the Cooperage while helming the WCCF.

With both Edwards and Jennings maintaining roles within their former organizations, “It's a win-win for both foundations,” said Jennings.

The Cooperage Project is still in the process of naming Jennings' replacement, though the plan is to have a new executive director in place by September.

Warren Schloesser, Board President of WCCF stated in a release, “I want to express my thanks to Paul Edwards for his most valuable service on behalf of our Board and I want to welcome Ryanne Jennings, who the Board anticipates will bring great energy for future development.”

More information about the Wayne County Community Foundation is available online at: https://www.waynefoundation.org.

—Information from a release was used in this story.