The FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge has announced the promotion of Julie Whalen to executive director. In the new position, Whalen will work closely with the Board of Directors and officers to expand the group’s volunteer and membership base while furthering the organization’s mission to protect and preserve the Blue Ridge region.
Whalen joined the FRIENDS non-profit in 2017 as the director of membership and marketing and became assistant executive director in 2020. The group has more than 1,500 members and nearly 750 volunteers in nine community-based organizations that empower and coordinate volunteers, projects, and events in their local areas.
“With her first-hand knowledge of our organization, volunteers and members, Julie is the right person to lead our organization,” said Dan Wells, FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Board of Directors president. “During Julie’s time with FRIENDS, we’ve seen her ability to connect with people and communities and that’s an integral part of this job. Not only does she have a wealth of experience in managing membership programs, she is passionate about forging meaningful relationships with our members and chapters who are the lifeblood of our organization.”
Last year, the National Park Service informed FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge it would not be renewing its partnership agreement with the non-profit.
“We’ve had to regroup and Julie has been instrumental in helping refocus our efforts, and we are confident she will provide the leadership that is needed as we go forward and reach out to our community partners,” said Wells. “Whalen led one of the FRIENDS’ first initiatives to engage new community partners in April when she conceived and coordinated the Blue Ridge PBS television production of Friends of the Blue Ridge JAM featuring the Junior Appalachian Musicians.”
Prior to joining FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge, Whalen worked for Kiwanis International for nine years as director of membership for North America. She and her family have lived in the Roanoke area over seven years.
“FRIENDS members and volunteers are passionate about the Blue Ridge region, its landscape and culture,” said Whalen. “From concerts and trail maintenance to playgrounds and tree plantings, it’s a very exciting time for the organization and I look forward to supporting our members and volunteers as they find ways to have a lasting impact in their communities.”
Whalen began her new position on June 1. She replaced Mark Hogsed who left as executive director at the end of May to take a position with a non-profit Christian ministry. “Mark’s work was impactful,” said Wells. “Our plan is to help Julie build on the great work and relationships he put in place during his time here.”
To learn more about the FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge, visit www.friendsbrp.org.