Passing the Baton





When Howard retired, it was with great fanfare and recognition, as was befitting this beloved leader of our community.  Yet, for the past 30 years, Howard has had a quiet, yet vital counterpart behind the scenes that has helped Jubilee! grow, evolve, and blossom into what it is. So today, I’d like to draw your attention and share about Don Fortuna – one of the founders of this community who has been planning his retirement for the past 2 years.

Don has made Jubilee! possible for the past 30 years. If you can think of anything that might need to happen to keep the doors of an organization open, Don has been a part of it. Beyond managing our finances with skill and humility, he was responsible for the care of our building, printing weekly bulletins, newsletters, setting up for Sundays, organizing volunteers, managing staff, and… handling the unfortunate plumbing job, ceiling leak, or other unexpected event (including being the easter bunny?!?!) Don has been, in many ways, the keel of a phenomenon, keeping us afloat, steady, and on course. Don’s legacy is not only that he brought form to a wild idea. It is through Don’s stewardship that Jubilee! has been able to gift 2.5 million dollars to the wider community of Asheville.

This May, Don will be retiring from his role as Administrator. The transition between Don and his successor, Patrick Fitzsimmons, will be a gradual one. And, Don certainly plans to remain a part of this community for many years to come. Nevertheless, we will miss him. Don, we are indebted to you! Thank you for sharing your gifts and talents with us. Thank you for making this the adventure we all know as Jubilee! a strong and healthy force for good in the world. It has, indeed, been a good run.

We asked Don to write a letter to the community, sharing a little about what this transition would look like and about his experience over the last 30 years (no tall order!). If you’ve ever met Don, you’ll know he does not choose to stand in the limelight. He doesn’t seek out recognition. He is true to himself, strong, intelligent, honest, dedicated, loving and generous. When you see him next, please take a moment to thank him for his contributions to this community. We have each certainly been blessed by his good work. And, it’s a lovely thing that we can hear a little from him before he leaves his post. Thank you for everything, Don. May the seeds you have sown bless you, your family, and every Jubilant in the years to come.


Dear Jubilee! Community

In August of 1990…almost 30 years ago, Genevieve and I, along with our two children, John and Lauren, threw our collective hats over the fence and moved to Asheville, NC from Oklahoma City, where I had been the administrator of a 4000+ member United Methodist Church. Genevieve would say that God told her on a visit to the mountains a couple of years earlier that “we needed to move to a new home.” And so, hearing the call, in March of 1990 we purchased our log home and six months later loaded up the U-haul truck and moved in, with the assistance of a team of Jubilants organized by Genevieve’s brother, Howard Hanger, who had just begun a new faith Community – the Jubilee! Community.

Of course, Jubilee! immediately became our spiritual home and in 1991, my employer. In the past 29 years, I have seen many changes, both in the city and in our beloved Jubilee! I have participated in the addition of our staff growing from three – Howard, a Holy Housekeeper and me — to a large team working in the areas of Community Life, Music, Administration and Nurture (all of whom are part-time), the purchase of our building at 46 Wall Street in 2000, and the total renovation of our facility in 2006. And, I have seen Howard retire in 2019 after 30 years of leadership. By the way, Howard and I have enjoyed a close relationship for over 55 years. I have him to thank for introducing me to Genevieve, my life partner of 52 years. These past years have really flown past simply because I have thoroughly enjoyed my “Jubilee! time” …working with creative, happy colleagues and joy-filled Jubilants.

And now, it is time for me to pass the baton to a new administrator, a decision that I made last year even before Howard retired. As many of you know, my successor was selected several months ago by the Jubilee! Board. And, as some of you know, he is Patrick Fitzsimmons. Patrick has excellent qualifications with years of experience in the world of non-profits. He is a long-time Jubilant who knows the Jubilee! culture. He has served on the Jubilee! Board of Directors, led the Asheville Area Red Cross, and recently, retired as the CEO of Asheville BizWorks. Additionally, he is presently an
elected member of the City of Weaverville Town Council. But, beyond these activities,
he is a genuinely kind and loving person.

In the month of May, Patrick and I will be working together, as much as “social distancing” will allow, to pass on my Jubilee! knowledge, and I will go “off the payroll.” When we are finally able to resume a more normal existence with Celebrations in our building, I will come back to finalize our transition.

Obviously, we are feeling our way along in this process, but I am confident that Jubilee! will continue to thrive as a community of people who are seeking to follow God’s Call to Life. Genevieve and I look forward to our continued participation in the Jubilee!

Warmly, Don