INTERFAITH CENTER DIRECTOR MOVES ON - The Explorer: Import

INTERFAITH CENTER DIRECTOR MOVES ON

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Posted: Wednesday, December 5, 2001 12:00 am | Updated: 7:46 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Though June Head has announced that she will retire as the Northwest Interfaith Center's director at year's end, few people seem to believe her.

"I talked to her a couple weeks ago and she told me she was retiring," said Paul Lewis, who hired Head at the center while he was its board president. "I said, 'June, I don't believe it.'"

Their reaction is understandable, seeing as it's her fourth try at retirement.

The Interfaith Center is Head's third career without counting the 15 years spent raising her family. Head's working life seems to have no beginning and, to date, there is no end.

The center is an organization of 450 volunteers helping the Northwest's needy through a food bank, mobile meals and the Good Samaritan program, which helps in paying utility bills in times of crisis. The Interfaith Center operates on grants from Pima County.

During most of the past 14 years, Head has run the center with the aid of only a handful of staffers, mostly volunteers.

Head was only looking for a part time job when she arrived at the center in 1987.

"When I came here I was just answering the phone. It kind of snow-balled," Head said. "I answered an ad and that's how it got started."

Head went to work at the center during her second retirement, shortly after moving to Tucson from Phoenix with her husband to be closer to one of her daughters and her grandchildren, she said.

Soon after starting at the center, Head put her accounting background to use. Though the center's programs were well organized, none of the staff knew how to do the books, she said.

"We hired her, basically, at a time when we were growing to the point we needed some internal administrative oversight," Lewis said. "She agreed to do it for little, if any, compensation."

Head was 62-years-old when she took over at the center, but said she had no doubt she was up to the task. She was, after all, the first woman hired by the E.F. Hutton brokerage firm's Phoenix office in the 1940s and had become very comfortable with numbers.

In only a short period of time at the center, she also became very comfortable with people, especially those in need.

"I'm interested in people. I can always find something in common with these people," Head said.

Now 77-years-old, this is Head's second attempt at retirement from the center. In 1999 she was serving as NIC's director and accountant for just a few hundred dollars a month.

Each of those positions is the equivalent of a full-time job and Head said she was feeling overwhelmed during the time in her life that is supposed to be the golden years.

So she quit, sort of.

Following angioplasty surgery, Head said she decided it would be best for her to take it easy and quit crunching the numbers for NIC, although she agreed to keep running the center.

Beginning in 1997, it became apparent that St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, where NIC was housed, would soon require the space taken by the center.

Head said the church, of which the center is a regular beneficiary, had always told her that eventually they would require all their property. The center would have to move.

The center, however, uses all of its grant money each year for its charitable programs. The regular staff was paid so little they were all but volunteers.

The situation seemed to require a minor miracle, Head said.

Christ the King Episcopal Church's Father Gregory Wyes received word that the center was looking for a new home and offered a section of his church's 12 acre lot. While they knew where they would move, free of charge, they had no building to move into, Head said.

That is where the minor miracle came into play. In 1993, Head had given a speech to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Northwest Tucson, one of the 11 churches affiliated with the center, about NIC and what it was working to achieve.

A member of the congregation that day, Loraine Weldon, was so impressed that she included the center among four other charitable organizations in her will, of which half went to charity, said Minister Susan Baker.

NIC received $75,000 when Weldon died in 1999, which was more than enough to build the center's current home at Christ the King. Head said she counts the center's move as her greatest accomplishment as director.

The back wall of her office is taken up with awards signifying her years of dedication to charity. Those years had been intended for relaxation, she said, but there are no regrets being expressed now that it appears to be ending.

"I'm 77. I feel I've accomplished what I felt I could do myself. I want time in my life to just do what I want to do, even if it's just sleep in in the morning," Head said. "A younger person will have more fresh ideas, more energy."

Most of those who have worked with Head have words for her similar to those of Wyes. "She's terrific and everybody loves her," he said.

For now, the future is unclear, Head said. She's thinking she may spend some time in Mexico where her husband, a painter, can do some more work in watercolors or she might begin sleeping until noon. But she will not be hanging out at the center, she said.

"I will stay away for six months to a year, I might go back to volunteering," Head said.

Lewis, however, said that does not sound like the director he hired to be a receptionist.

"I don't see that happening," he said. "There's a lady with a lot of energy."

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