VALDOSTA -- The Haven's board of directors have entrusted a new executive director with solving the financial woes that have plagued the shelter for abused women and children this past year.

Board members voted unanimously Tuesday night to hire Mandy Rowe. She will become the full-time director Jan. 5.

Ann Kasun, who has been The Haven's acting director, said that Rowe is the most qualified candidate of the 35 who applied and the other three who were interviewed for the position. Rowe also happens to be local, which the board members also view as positive.

"Mandy is far and above the other candidates who applied," Kasun said. "She has a strong financial background that we need badly at The Haven. She is also a person who is from here."

Rowe, who says she has lived in Lowndes County all of her life, anticipates taking the leadership role at the woman's shelter.

"I've worked in a lot of different situations in my professional career," Rowe said. "I went back to college later in life to get a psychology degree, because I wanted to work with abused children. However, I felt I was stronger in accounting and hoped that somewhere down the road, I would be able to mesh the two."

She will get that opportunity starting this week, as Kasun said Rowe would meet the staff and begin to learn the new system that board members have worked to implement during the crisis. In fact, Rowe's first fund-raising opportunity will be Saturday at The Home Depot, where she will participate in the United Way's roof sit.

Kasun said The Haven will contract with a licensed clinical social worker to be sure that the psychological needs of abused women and children are met.

Rowe spent the last four years as a staff accountant at South Georgia Medical Center and has 14 years of accounting experience in both public and corporate accounting.

Kathy Lowney, Ph.D, served as chairwoman for the search committee. She is excited about the potential Rowe is bringing to The Haven. "Mandy's skill level based on the excellent suggestions she has already made about the finances has us convinced we won't have anymore financial difficulties."

Rowe will enter on a upward swing as far as finances are concerned. Recent donations have pulled the financial statements back into the black, Kasun said. Money has been donated by the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office in the amount of $20,000. The Pipkin Foundation had presented a check for $5,000 Wednesday morning, and the community donations were $6,660. All of this should help The Haven make it through the fund raising blackout put in place by the United Way campaign.

"We are so grateful to the community for the support we've enjoyed over the last two months, and we hope that we will continue to build on it," Kasun said. "We know that things are going to turn around with Mandy in charge."

To contact Tanya B. O'Berry, call 244-3400, ext. 239.

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