CHUM names new executive director

John Cole, currently the interim director at Align Minneapolis — also a faith-based homelessness organization — will begin June 1 and replace current executive director Lee Stuart, who plans to retire June 30, CHUM said in a news release Wednesday.

Cole, born in the Caribbean, came to Minnesota in 2011 after founding Friends Hotline of Antigua and Barbuda, a nongovernmental organization supporting youth in crisis. At the same time, he was youth director for the Diocese of North Eastern Caribbean and Aruba of the Anglican Church.

He has also served as director of The Dignity Center, an interfaith ministry of Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis that helps people living in poverty.

“I have a great appreciation for the human spirit,” Cole said in the news release. “I’m passionate about serving, and have a calling to serve. I’m impressed by the breadth of services that CHUM offers, and I look forward to working with the CHUM staff and other partners in mission in Duluth.”

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Stuart, who has served as executive director for eight years, announced her retirement last year.

During that time, CHUM increased its shelter capacity from 46 to 80 beds, created a service program at the Steve O’Neil Apartments and diversified its staff.

In the release, Stuart called the years leading CHUM “among the most rewarding of my life” and said she’d support Cole in the transition.

“Lee’s brilliant leadership, deep faith and commitment to a just and compassionate community has transformed how we affirm the dignity of every person,” Patrice Critchley-Menor, CHUM’s board president, said in the release. “We will miss her, but are infinitely grateful for her work.”

CHUM provided emergency shelter for more than 1,000 people last year and also has a street outreach program to connect with people living on the streets or in the woods.

CHUM’s food shelves provided 388,000 pounds of food to 5,800 households in 2020, according to the organization.

The Steve O’Neil Apartments building, staffed by CHUM, provides housing and services to families with children who have experienced long-term or recurrent homelessness.

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