Jackie Gardner joins Community Action as COO, director of operations

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 3 February 2022 at 12:29 pm

Photo by Ginny Kropf: Jackie Gardner, seated, who just took the position of chief operating officer and director of operations at Community Action in Albion, talks with executive director Renee Hungerford.

ALBION – Jackie Gardner always knew she would follow her family’s footsteps and pursue a career in banking, but when a “job of a lifetime” opened at Community Action in Albion, she knew it was time to make a switch.

Gardner was born and raised in Albion. Her father always said a career in banking was an honorable position, and her brother is a bank manager in Rochester, so it was natural she should take that career path.

But when a position as chief operating officer and director of operations became available at Community Action, she gave up her 25-year banking career to accept the position.

She first met Renee Hungerford, executive director of Community Action, during a bank acquisition in 1993. Gardner was working for Chase when they announced they were leaving the area, and Jodi Gaines, then founder of CRFS, called and offered her a job.

“She hired me and I worked in client relations and ran a team filing claims for the government,” Gardner said. “I was there eight years when I decided it was a good time to explore a career move.”

Most recently, Gardner worked for M&T running an audit team for risk and compliance. She had previously talked to Hungerford about a position at Community Action, but the timing wasn’t right, she said.

When Annette Finch, long-time director of Emergency Services, announced her retirement, Hungerford posted the job.

“Jackie called me that morning,” Hungerford said. “Hiring has been such a struggle, with the pandemic and all, and how fortunate the perfect person should show up at my doorstep.”

Gardner said when she worked for one bank, she knew Finch through food drives and coat drives they did for Community Action.

“We wanted to give back to the community,” she said. “What impresses me about this organization is the passion of the people who work and volunteer here.”

“It is so refreshing to hear that excitement,” Hungerford said.

“There are a lot of great organizations in this county and I see Community Action as being pivotal in helping those in need,” Gardner said.

“We are stronger together, whether we are developing programs or working on grants,” Hungerford said.

Gardner said it’s hard not to be excited about coming to work every day.

“We have a phenomenal team right now and I couldn’t be more grateful ,” Hungerford said.

Gardner said she has been involved in for-profit organizations all her life, but so much of what she learned there can be transferred to this job.

Gardner is also president of the board of United Way of Orleans County and a member of GCASA’s executive board.