By Jeff Noble
In her seven-and-a-half years as executive director of Corbin’s United Effort (CUE), Christina Bentley says she’s helped the non-profit community organization reach their goals. Now, she’s ready to help a new generation reach their goals as a teacher.
Bentley’s last day at CUE was last Friday. She spent much of that final day helping hundreds of children and families at the annual Southeast Kentucky Empty Stocking Fund Giveaway at Forest Bowling Lanes.
Her successor is Jason Hale, a Harlan County native who comes to CUE with what Bentley called “a considerable background in Frankfort with grant administration.”
Hale took over the reins as executive director last week.
In less than two weeks, Bentley will be an adjunct lecturer with Lincoln Memorial University, based in Harrogate, Tenn. She said she plans to teach at LMU’s campus at the Baptist Regional Medical Center in Corbin. Her first day as a college English teacher is Jan. 7.
Bentley formerly taught English at the University of Kentucky from 1999 to 2004. She returned to Corbin in May 2005, to take over the position at CUE. The semester after she joined Corbin’s United Effort, she also taught at EKU-Corbin.
“I found out that while I could do both jobs adequately, I couldn’t do them as well as I wanted to. So I put that on hold until I felt like my work at CUE was done,” said Bentley.
Now she feels that time has come. And there’s a reason why.
“Any organization is a living, breathing thing, if it’s healthy. And that means it has to grow and change. Not every leader is going to be good at every phase of that life cycle. At this point, I feel like I’ve finished. I do want to make it clear that there’s no conflict involved. I’ve been very happy with CUE, and the board’s been very happy with me. I reached my goals. I set out to do very specific things at Corbin’s United Effort, and I did those things,” Bentley noted.
Among the accomplishments she pointed out were an organization plan, a set of policies to go by, and a new home for CUE.
“When I started there, CUE was in a house on 18th Street, which we rented for $750 a month. Now, we’re at the Barbourville Street office, which is more centrally-located in town, closer to other services and more client-friendly. We had no written policies of any kind when I began. We had nothing. So we had to create policies, guidelines and criteria for clients and staff. The organization needed to be professionalized. And we needed to get the word out to people who needed to use our services about what we did.”
Bentley now feels the primary focus is to do more fundraising and grant work. Much of that came about from a city ordinance that started almost a year ago.
“When the smoking ban (in public places) went into effect last January, our fundraising took a big hit. We had bingo as a major fundraising tool, and this past year, the time came to diversify our fundraising.”
Bentley said it was time for Hale to succeed her, and that it was time for his knowledge and experience in grant writing to work for the organization.
Hale said Bentley’s talents and skills left a lasting mark on CUE.
“Christina was a really big help in my transition last week. She commands a lot of respect from the staff, and I could tell she’ll be greatly missed.”
Already, Bentley’s looking forward to the next phase of her life and career — a career she hopes will open the minds and imagination of those she touches.
“I like teaching. I was 26 when I started teaching at UK. And I really enjoy college students. Being a college student is an exercise in hope. For everybody, college was the last time you believed anything is possible. I had that feeling when I was a college student.”
But with less than 10 days to go before she returns to the classroom, Bentley said she hasn’t had much time to rest up before school is in session.
“Not yet. But seriously, I’m thinking I’ll turn off my mobile phone next week and stick it in a drawer.”