In Connie Hodges’ office, a small four-chair wooden table serves as a conference table. It’s here where she’s hosted community leaders, volunteers and employees who have made decisions that guide one of the biggest organizations in Jacksonville.
Hodges has been president of the United Way of Northeast Florida for the past 16 years and an employee of the nonprofit for decades.
Last week, Hodges announced she will retire at the end of the year. The time is right, she said, because after all the changes, the organization is now at its most solid point.
Hodges’ office is in the Riverplace Tower in San Marco. The space’s window walls and views of the St. Johns River are courtesy of Wells Fargo. In 2006, the bank subsidized a significant portion of the costs so United Way could relocate. Her favorite part of her office is that small conference table.
“When I think of being in this office, I think about the people, the volunteers and the staff that sit around this table,” Hodges said. “We have conversations and strategic development sessions and give exchanges and (have) productive conversations around where we are going as an organization.”
Hodges said the greatest accomplishment the organization achieved under her leadership occurred in 2005, when it shifted from a mostly fundraising organization to adopting a community impact model.
“The community impact model allowed us to be more razor-focused on the root causes of the social issues in our community and how we develop through research strategies to address those issues,” she said.
Hodges keeps mementos around her office as a reminder of some of her favorite events during her time as leader of the organization.
Some plastic jeweled cuffs and a brass spray-painted rope sit on a bookshelf to remind her of the time she played the part of “Impact Woman,” a play on Wonder Woman, at a meeting.
A framed green piece of construction paper masterpiece created by Hodges’ son is exhibited in front of a window.
A patchwork fabric panel hangs near her desk. She received it as a gift when she served as a committee member during a United Way Worldwide conference.
Fresh flowers, a gift from her employees after she announced her retirement, are on the corner of her desk.
“I like things that remind me of good times,” Hodges said.
Several awards are also on display under large black-and-white photos of people served by the United Way, photos that are featured throughout the office’s halls.
The awards include one from the Girl Scouts, some from local publications and one of her favorite things — a glass-framed trophy and medal designating her as part of the distinguished alumni hall of fame from her high school in the suburbs of Kansas City.
In her final year as president, Hodges hopes to form new collaborations for the nonprofit and focus on its legacy giving initiative. Those are more important than packing up her office, she said.
“There’s a lot of work to still be accomplished and a lot of priorities before I can think about that,” she said.