Habitat director leaving

M. J. Adams, executive director of Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity

GORODN DANIELS M. J. Adams, executive director of Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity

NORTHAMPTON — Longtime Executive Director M.J. Adams-Pullan is leaving her position at Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity, 11 years and 26 homes after she became the nonprofit’s first paid staff member.

Adams-Pullan, 55, has accepted a new job as director of community development at the Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority. She starts Jan. 7, one day after she will step down from her position at Pioneer Valley Habitat.

“I’ve had a wonderful 11 years here, and it’s important to me to leave Habitat for Humanity to transition in leadership at a time when it is strong and in the best position to do that,” she said Tuesday. “There is strong leadership, strong volunteers and there are projects in the pipeline.”

Adams-Pullan said she is confident the nonprofit’s business of providing affordable homes to low-income families will continue as usual while a new director is selected. The Board of Directors may name an interim director later this week, she said, and that person will lead the organization until a permanent replacement can be found.

The application deadline for the permanent position is Dec. 28.

When she was named executive director 11 years ago, the Pioneer Valley Habitat had built nine homes in western Massachusetts. Adams-Pullan has since overseen the construction of 26 homes, bringing the total to 35.

She was the first employee of the previously volunteer-run organization. Now, Pioneer Valley Habitat employs four staffers but still relies on volunteer to build homes, raise funds and sit on the board of directors.

“It’s a wonderfully complex organization built on a simple concept: recruiting volunteers and empowering them to do all they can,” Adams-Pullan said. “I think we’ve done a great job with this and will continue to do so.”

The kind of homes Habitat for Humanity has been building has also changed, she said. When she signed on, the group built mostly condominiums, then found that people preferred single-family homes. Now, they build those or an unusual type of building called a zero-lot-line home. A zero-lot-line building functions as two separate homes that share a central wall, right on the property’s lot line.

“I think that speaks to our ability to try things, see if they work and see how we can make them better,” she said. “We want our families to be happy.”

In addition the homes the nonprofit has built, Adams-Pullan said she is most proud of the connections she has been able to forge for Habitat for Humanity over the years. The group has partnered with Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School and Franklin County Technical School so students learning about carpentry, plumbing and electrical systems can get experience building homes. PV Squared, a Greenfield cooperative, also installs solar panels on all suitable Habitat homes at no cost, she said.

She said she is excited to see Habitat’s current projects come to fruition, as well as new projects get started in communities such as Amherst, Southampton and Sunderland. Current projects include one on Garfield Avenue in Florence, one on Belchertown Road in Amherst, two in Turners Falls and two in Easthampton on East and Everett streets.

Although Adams-Pullan said she will take a step back to allow the new director to establish him or herself with the organization, she plans to return in a volunteer capacity.

“I can’t imagine not being involved. I’ll be involved with Habitat for Humanity for the rest of my life,” she said. “I love building, and I couldn’t do it as executive director, so I’ll be back to volunteer to build.”

Rebecca Everett can be reached at: reverett@gazettenet.com.

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