It is hard keeping up with Jones –Hilary Plunkett Jones, that is, the new executive director of Rye’s Wainwright House.
On a recent day, she was juggling myriad Wainwright events, from the canceling of a Divine Energy Concert featuring Fannie Faith and new age rock group Heart and Soul due to lack of interest to analyzing the success of the Little Garden Club of Rye’s Namaste flower show and a Healing Arts Fair/Community Celebration.
She was also putting the finishing touches on preparing for such upcoming events as “Journey of the Soul: Discovering Who You Are as a Spiritual Being,” a Pulse Manifestation Series (Pulse here an acronymn standing for Perception Uniting Life Spiritual Energy), and an interfaith celebration, among others.
And she was also dealing with the after effects of a burst water main on the property that “was spewing into the air like Old Faithful,” as she put it. “We were lucky. Our plumber was in the neighborhood and the water company was here in a flash. All is well now. But at considerable expense.”
That is why she considers fund-raising, increasing Wainwright memberships, and being a good neighbor to surrounding home owners her three main challenges during the current economic downturn at a time when Wainwright's initial bequest has run out.
Wainwright faces a decline in income from staging weddings on the property in 2012 (mandated down to ten due to noise complaints from neighbors) and additional unforeseen operational expenditures to maintain the aging infrasture.
But like the planning of hundreds of Wainwright events and workshops, that all goes with the territory Ms. Jones inherited when she took the Wainwright helm at the start of its 60th anniversary year.
It is almost as though she had been destined for that role almost from her high school years.
She first came to Wainwright House as part of a high school retreat in 1976 and fell in love with its physical attractions –a re-created French chateau, a sprawling mansion and a Carriage House on five waterfront acres fronting Milton Harbor and Long Island Sound.
It was almost as though she unintentionally spent the intervening years grooming herself to run Wainwright House in various ways, from attending the Parson School of Design and the French Culinary Institute to working in several industries that would stand her in good stead for the challenges of Wainwright House.
She was involved in project and construction management; overseeing a major construction renovation including landscape design and installation in Mamaroneck.
Before that she worked as an event planner and production manager in the film industry, working on projects that included catering for cast and crews on the sets. That came in handy when the cable TV series “Royal Pain” filmed at Wainwright.
So did the fact that she has also worked on commercials, industrial films, music videos and feature films as part of a family with extensive experience in the movie industry.
She also had extensive background in the not-for-profit world, having worked with, among others, the National Alliance for Thrombosis as program director, as trade show manager for the International Council of Shopping Centers, and the Audio Engineering Society as events manager.
Her late husband was a stock broker, so she was well versed in reading bottom lines in a fluctuating market environment. She also loves to cook and garden and dotes on her son, Patrick, a college sophomore, and their kitten Secret Agent Ava.
But something was missing in the midst of all that, a sense of mission and real purpose that surfaced when former Wainwright Board President Annie Gailliard, a landscape design expert, began talking to her about coming on board to help plan the future of Wainwright House.
Those talks continued when Carol Craig became president of the Board of Trustees and welcomed Ms. Jones as executive director during Wainwright’s 60th anniversary celebration not long ago.
Ever since, Ms. Jones has been working with the Wainwright staff to create new learning opportunities for members while maintaining Wainwright’s mission to offer a sacred space and community for spiritual exploration, health and healing, and planetary responsibility.
That happens in many ways in the various buildings that dot the grounds at 260 Stuyvesant Avenue, from upcoming courses like “Living a Course in Miracles” with John Mundy, Ph.D. to a Conscious Evolution Circle to Divas Do Lunch, films such as “The Living Matrix” and aerobics exercise programs including Yoga, Pilates, and Zumba.
Jones has been working on lining up community support while actively working with the Board to develop a vision and strategy for the future growth of Wainwright House and on issues and concerns of its constituency on an estate virtually across the street from Coveleigh Country Club's tennis courts in an area dotted with multi-million dollar waterfront estates.
She also keeps up with more mundane Wainwright concerns, like making sure the aging heating plant works in the various buildings as well as the air conditioning, keeping leaking roofs mended and the parking lot paved, all the while overseeing an eclectic menu of events and watching the bottom line.
“I recognize the stress of these difficult economic and tumultuous times and the important role that Wainwright House and its energy will play in bringing balance during these times,” she says. “But Wainwright is a place I love. I consider work love. And I love my work.”