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County women lead Habitat for Humanity

Two Franklin County women are the new leaders of Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity, a 20-year-old organization that helps build homes for low-income families.

The local Habitat chapter Tuesday named Megan McDonough, 33, of Colrain, executive director of the organization that has built nearly three dozen affordable houses in Hampshire and Franklin counties in partnership with income-eligible homeowners, who provide “sweat equity,” along with teams of volunteers.

She replaces Elizabeth Bridgewater, who left the agency in May after about a year at the helm.

Meanwhile, Amy Landry, 50, of Conway, hired as interim director of resource development in May, was named to serve permanently in that three-quarter time post.

McDonough, whose job as executive director is a full-time position, has worked at the agency since May 2013, when she was hired as an office manager, and then moved into the post of operations manager. In that capacity, she worked with volunteer build teams and oversaw applications for zoning and planning permits, among other duties.

McDonough said her new role with the organization will be “taking on more of the long-term thinking and working with community partners on our long-term vision going forward.”

“I think she’ll be a great spokesperson for Habitat,” said Peter Jessop, a former longtime board member and founder of Integrity Development & Construction in Amherst, who served as interim director for nine weeks since Bridgewater left to take a job in Brattleboro, Vt.

McDonough said when she joined Habitat as office manager last year, it was to make a career shift to pursue her “passion for affordable housing development.”

Previously she worked for the Northampton-based Center for Ecotechnology in its green building program for seven years. McDonough said she also worked as a consultant for the Valley Community Land Trust, which is another volunteer-driven organization.

McDonough said it is the strength of Habitat’s volunteer force that made her eager to apply for the permanent post as executive director when it came open in May.

She said one volunteer has come into the office once a week for five years to write thank-you notes to donors, while others don hard hats and pound hammers and nails at building sites.

“The volunteer force behind Pioneer Valley Habitat is just really impressive to me,” she said. “They want to make a difference in their community and they are really stepping up to do that.”

McDonough was selected from a field of roughly 30 applicants. Jessop said during the nine weeks he served as interim director he was impressed with McDonough’s skills.

“I think she’s going to be terrific,” Jessop said. “She’s energetic, she’s enthusiastic about the mission, she’s passionate about it and she’s competent as well.”

Landry, who is in charge of fundraising, outreach, grant-writing and publicity, previously worked at the Proteus Fund in Amherst, a philanthropic group that focuses on democracy, human rights and peace issues.

The organization has two staff positions filled by McDonough and Landry, and two open positions which McDonough says she hopes to fill soon — a volunteer coordinator and a bookkeeper. The agency also has two summer interns.

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