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New president, Helen Finnigan, takes over CAST board


Helen Finnigan has dedicated her life to volunteering.

While splitting her time between Connecticut and New York City more than a decade ago, she worked in men’s and women’s prisons, teaching decision-making skills to inmates. She also spent two years in Hong Kong working as a consultant for a Manhattan financial company and found time to volunteer there on her days off.

Once she moved to the North Fork full-time in 2002, she began volunteering locally in various ways. It was only natural that a friend eventually suggested she get involved with Community Action Southold Town.

Three years after joining the nonprofit in 2014 as secretary, the Southold resident was named CAST’s president. She began her two year term Jan. 1.

“She’s perfect,” former CAST president Denis Noncarrow said. “She gets along with people, she understands the needs of the community. She absolutely fits perfectly with CAST. We’re very lucky to have her.”

Entering during a period of change — with a new building, new group of subcommittees and a search for a new executive director in anticipation of Linda Ruland’s retirement next month — Ms. Finnigan, 64, has a few goals for the organization.

Her background in financial services has taught her the importance of streamlined processes and she hopes to further organize how information is gathered, grantors are responded to, services are applied for and more.

She’s also looking forward to helping to identify a new executive director. Interviews are underway and CAST hopes to have someone on board soon so they can train under Ms. Ruland before her March 31 departure.

Earlier this year, CAST won a $200,000 grant from Bank of America. The grant funds will be split evenly over two years and are to be used to support leadership development. The organization is currently considering various ways to use the grant funds, such as new software.

“CAST is so appealing,” Ms. Finnigan said. “It’s neighbors helping neighbors. It started 51 years ago — a lot of organizations like this don’t exist now. This community managed to have the commitment and kept it afloat. It’s amazing.”

One of her favorite aspects of the organization is seeing those who have received services turn around and give back to CAST to help others in similar situations. She recalled a time two men came in to look at clothes and later brought in a box of clothes to donate. Other people have asked to volunteer in their spare time.

“The generosity shown in this community is humbling,” she said. “It’s a wonderful community to be a part of … It’s both humbling and gratifying to know that we’re all in this together.”

Photo caption: Helen Finnigan, who’s been on the Community Action Southold Town staff since 2014, began her term as its president Jan. 1. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

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