Leadership Jacksonville, Community Health Outreach welcomes new execs

Leadership Jacksonville, a 46-year-old nonprofit that provides a range of leadership training, has hired Gracie Simendinger as its new CEO.

Simendinger, currently director of development at the Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry, or BEAM, will take over in August. She succeeds Jill Langford Dame, who announced her retirement in March.

“Her local development experience and enthusiasm will be critical in helping us continue to execute our mission,” said Kathy Miller, Leadership Jacksonville board president.

Simendinger is one of two new leaders at area nonprofits. The other is Melanie Saxon, recently appointed executive director of Community Health Outreach.

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Simendinger has also worked for the United Way of Northeast Florida and Jacksonville University and has experience in team management, fundraising, public affairs and marketing, organizational effectiveness, program and partnership development and change management, according to Leadership Jacksonville.

She is president of the JAX Chamber Downtown Council, at-large member of the Women’s Giving Alliance steering committee and has served in various leadership roles with other local organizations.

“I am deeply invested in the future success of our city,” she said. “I fully believe in our ability to capitalize on the positive momentum by continuing to develop Leadership Jacksonville as a venue for strengthening our community leadership.”

The organization, she said, “is an incredible catalyst for developing the inclusive, vibrant Jacksonville that we can see on the horizon.”

Leadership Jacksonville was established in 1976 as a vehicle to stimulate the growth of leadership in the Northeast Florida community. The nonprofit currently has four major programs: Leadership Jacksonville, New Leadership Summit, Youth Leadership Jacksonville and Collegiate Leadership Experience.

Community Health Outreach

Formerly WestJax Outreach, Community Health Outreach provides free medical and dental care and other services to low-income, uninsured Duval County patients.

Saxon, its latest executive director, brought a long resume of experience working for nonprofits. Most recently she ran L’Arche Jacksonville, a residential community for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, for six years.

Her earlier positions include executive director of the American Red Cross North Central Florida Chapter, Voices for Kids of Southwest Florida in Fort Myers and North Central Florida AIDS Network in Gainesville.

Saxon succeeds Meredith Smith, who left in April.

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“This is an especially exciting time for Community Health Outreach as we rebuild after the many challenges brought by COVID,” Saxon said. “I feel blessed to be part of the … mission and work alongside this dedicated board, staff and community volunteers. I look forward to helping grow our resources so we can serve more people.”

Numerous “well-qualified candidates” applied for the job, but Saxon’s experience “makes her an exceptional individual for the role,” according to Community Health Outreach.

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