Transition Details and FAQ

Transition Details and FAQ

CEF Co-Directors Jon and Janet with CEF Member Deborah (middle)!


Jon Youngpenn and Janet Xiao, Co-Directors at the Community Empowerment Fund, have decided that this year they will step down to pursue new opportunities, effective March 12th. With this transition we are excited to share that Donna Carrington stepped into the role of Co-Director in September of last year, and is supporting staff and CEF Board of Directors through the transition and next steps. These decisions have come after much thought and careful discernment and were announced with letters from both Jon, Janet, and the Transition Team

Donna, Jon, and Janet, are Co-Directors for Community Empowerment Fund and have worked together to guide and support CEF for the past 6 years. Jon is Co-Founder of CEF (since 2009), Janet supported the launch of CEF in Durham in 2011, and Donna has a played a core leadership role at CEF in Durham since 2015.  In partnership and with support from CEF staff, board members, and countless student and community volunteers and members, CEF has matured as a highly respected nonprofit and community resource spanning Orange and Durham Counties.  With an annual budget of $750,000, CEF reaches over 1,000 Members a year with the energy and support of over 220 Advocates. In 2019 alone, 121 Members gained jobs and 138 Members moved out of homelessness into housing! In exciting news, CEF Members have now saved over $1,250,000 collectively towards their personal goals. CEF is growing in impactful ways, and we remain deeply committed to our mission and community. 

Questions for Jon and Janet

Why have you decided to make this change?

Jon:  I feel overwhelmingly blessed and grateful to have called CEF ‘home’ and  ‘family’ for almost 11 years now. That feeling won’t ever change, and I’m excited for the ways this decision will open up space for greater discovery in my own life and to find new ways to be in and show up for community.  I’m confident in the wisdom and commitment of our staff and board and eager to witness CEF continue to grow in powerful ways in Orange County and the wider community. 

Janet:  It has been a wonderful gift to watch CEF grow in Durham for nearly a decade! While CEF’s community will remain deeply meaningful to me, I now feel called to explore new and different work, and this inflection point in CEF’s growth feels like the right time to step away. I am grateful to have been a part of the organization’s formative years—CEF has certainly been a substantive part of my own, and I am truly excited to see this organization continue to blossom!

What are your immediate plans? 

In the months leading up to our transition, we will continue working closely with the board and staff team to ensure a smooth transition.  We trust the wisdom and leadership of Donna, CEF’s staff, and Board of Directors, and feel fully confident in the deep commitment and creative energy that they are bringing to this process. 

After our last day on March 12th, we both hope to have an intentional period to rest, reflect, and discern what next steps might be in store. We are deeply committed and tied to our local community, we aren’t going anywhere geographically, and we are excited to explore and discover new roles and ways of engaging in this place we call home. 

Will you plan to stay an active part of the CEF community?

Yes! The relationships that we’ve built through CEF have shaped us so powerfully, and we look forward to staying in touch with all the friends, mentors, and countless fellow sojourners that have filled our hearts all these years. We also look forward to continuing to participate in CEF’s beloved community as members of it, whether that’s through community celebrations, the Advocacy Choir, or advocating for issues close to the heart of CEF’s work. 

We will also be available in an ongoing capacity to provide support and consultation, as needed. We are in active conversation with CEF’s board and staff to discern what would be helpful in this regard, and both are mindful about leaving plenty of space for the leadership of CEF to flourish.

Will your departure impact the health of the organization?

CEF is in a strong position to move forward. We are financially healthy, with a diverse network of support: private foundations, corporate partners, a growing number of individual donors, local government grants, and contract income through nonprofit and governmental partners. CEF’s staff and board have worked together since our founding to build a healthy operating reserve. We have deep confidence in where CEF is right now, and see this as an exciting moment in the life of the organization.

Questions for the Transition Team

Is someone replacing Janet/Jon? What is the process and timeline going to be?

As Jon and Janet step away from Community Empowerment Fund, the Board and staff are excited to envision a new future with Donna playing a key role in the leadership structure. While the structure and logistics of the organization may shift some as a result of this change, we are deeply grateful to already have incredible staff and an engaged Board who will be thinking through what is to come next. The Board and staff are reflecting on CEF’s strengths and we anticipate sharing an update in late February – early March outlining our next steps, process and timeline on the future that we have collectively embraced.

How can I support CEF through this transition?

We’re so grateful to the whole CEF family for being an amazingly supportive community. For now, keep doing what you do best at CEF—whether that’s volunteering, donating, coming to meetings, building program partnerships together, or singing the Choir. This moment of change and reflection is a great opportunity to do some soul-searching and be grounded in who we are and why we do what we do, so if there’s anything you’d like to share about why you love and support CEF, feel free to write to us and let us know!

One very impactful thing you can do is to spread the word about  any upcoming open positions among your networks. Help us to reach some stellar candidates!

Whom can I talk to if I have questions?

Brian Smith (Board Co-Chair):

Eric Breit (Board Co-Chair):

Bebe Smith (Governance  Committee Chair): 

Donna Carrington (Co-Director):

CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

Chapel Hill: 919-200-0233 Durham: 919-797-9233