During Cynthia Hull’s tenure as executive director of United Community Ministries, the number of clients the agency served nearly doubled, from 7,000 in 2007 to 13,000 five years later. Some former donors became clients.
It took a woman like Hull to see UCM through a tough recession and stay on top.
“She guided the agency through being able to expand in order to serve all those people with relatively flat funding, which is a tremendous accomplishment,” said Elizabeth McNally, UCM deputy executive director.
Hull died March 16 at Mt. Desert Island Hospital in Bar Harbor, Maine, where she had been staying with her son. She had been diagnosed with cancer only Jan. 9. She was 62.
Hull came on board at UCM in 2007. She introduced cost-saving measures in order to serve more people without any lay-offs or furloughs, McNally said. She held her staff of 75 in high regard, taking time to get to know everyone on a personal basis, and was a natural leader.
“What probably was her guiding principal was she believed we shared a common humanity, and you could see that in the way she interacted with people who came for the services and her staff,” McNally said. “When you see someone interacting the same way with different groups of people, it really speaks to their integrity.”
Hull could be stubborn. She held people to high standards but motivated them to reach those standards. And she loved to laugh.
Douglas Kennett, the president of UCM's board of directors, said the agency faces a “great task” in serving UCM clients people at the level Hull established.
“Cynthia is probably the most unselfish person that I think I’ve ever known,” Kennett said. “When it’s time to focus on other people and other people’s needs rather than her own, other people’s needs always came before her own. One of my jobs was to make sure she took her time off so she could recharge her batteries. It was one of those things she wouldn’t do unless you forced her was to take her own time.”
Before joining UCM, Hull served as executive director and president of for 14 years. Prior to that, she was deputy executive director of Offender Aid and Restoration of Fairfax County, where she was also volunteer coordinator during seven of those years.
Hull also formerly served on the adjunct faculty of Northern Virginia Community College in the Department of Social Sciences and Public Services. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sociology from the University of South Florida in Tampa.
Shannon Steene, who worked closely with Hull in his job as executive director of , called Hull a trusted colleague who always focused on the future. Only two days before Hull’s diagnosis, Steene said, the two were driving to Richmond together and making plans about how to work together better and stronger in the community.
“When I think about Cynthia, I certainly think about a person who was a champion for people who were struggling in the community,” Steene said.
Steene and Hull worked alongside Pam Michell, executive director of . Michell said the three would grab ice cream together and discuss collaborative solutions to community problems.
Michell remembers the first time she met Hull, during a welcome reception when Hull took the top job at UCM. Someone asked Hull if she was going to be a team player, and Hull grabbed Michell’s hand, as if she were forming a pact, Michell said.
“That was my very first impression of meeting with her, was ‘Oh, goody,’ and we did a lot of that,” she said.
Last year, Hull . She was a vocal advocate for the people UCM served, Michell said. Hull could be stubborn, but she was stubborn on points she believed in.
Ultimately, she was a strong voice for UCM.
Gerry Hyland, Mount Vernon District supervisor, said Hull was skilled in bringing different people -- including politicians and those from the faith community -- together to help people in need.
“She has been incredible challenged to do more with less, and she was absolutely the right person to be hired for that job,” Hyland said. “Her energy and spirit and ability to marshal assets and bring the community together to help each other was amazing, that one person could do so much to make a difference. She was really a special person.”