Happy Hollow Foundation Announces Executive Director Heather Lerner

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Happy Hollow Foundation has hired Heather Lerner to serve as its Executive Director. Happy Hollow Foundation is the nonprofit fundraising organization that supports San Jose's Happy Hollow Park & Zoo. Heather Lerner is a former Happy Hollow Foundation Board President and has years of experience in the nonprofit sector as a development professional and volunteer.

Happy Hollow Board President Matthew Mendizábal officially announces the hiring of Heather Lerner to become the foundation's Executive Director, the organization's first in its nearly fifty-year history. Ms Lerner began working on August 10.

Happy Hollow Foundation's desire for an Executive Director has been building over the last year, partly due to a re-structuring of the organization's relationship with the City of San Jose and partly due to the anticipated increase in membership and in funding needs when Happy Hollow Park & Zoo re-opens in the spring of 2010.

"We are seeing the need for the foundation to expand its fundraising capabilities," states
Mr. Mendizábal, "and that just won't happen without a dedicated staff person who can focus on fundraising and guide the board." Ms. Lerner is a former board President and is well versed in the needs of Happy Hollow Park & Zoo and in garnering community support for this beloved institution.

Ms Lerner has been active in various community endeavors, most notably as Board President of Happy Hollow Foundation, where she worked hard to improve the community visibility of the organization that provides additional operational support and raises funds for Happy Hollow.

Ms Lerner brings knowledge and talent to the position of Executive Director, in addition to tenacity. She worked for San Jose Unified School District as an arts educator and is a co-founder of The Ranch Performing Arts Training Center, a summer arts program for teens. Ms Lerner has also worked with Children's Musical Theatre, is a resident of Willow Glen, and studied Recreation Administration at CSU Chico.

She served on the board of directors for Explorer Preschool where she chaired the fundraising committee for three years, smashing all previous records by large margins. As a volunteer with San Jose Unified School District, Heather served as the volunteer coordinator for two years.

Ms Lerner was honored in 2007 with a Robert Brownlee Service Award. Also, as a volunteer with San Jose Unified School District, Heather received a Volunteer Service Award for exemplary service to the drama program for two years.

Ms Lerner's dedication stems from her experience with her own children, who spent many days in the park. As she says, "Happy Hollow gives the city of San Jose a unique sense of place. A place where children and families can learn and grow through play and wholesome fun, and occasionally get nibbled on by goats. Happy Hollow is multi-generational. The smallest babies and the eldest grandparents get tremendous joy from this human-scale park. Happy Hollow is a destination place for neighbors and long-distance visitors, as community members and families of all ethnicities will be delighted to actively learn through play.. "

James Reber, an expert in fundraising and nonprofit development, has worked as a consultant with Happy Hollow Foundation since 2008, says of Heather Lerner. "In my opinion she is the right person at the right time. Those of us who love Happy Hollow have someone at the helm who has a passion for the job and the talent to do it all."


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Nathan Paris