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Center at Belvedere names new executive director

The Center at Belvedere has named a new chief ahead of its sitting executive director’s retirement at the end of the year.

After a nationwide search, Melanie Benjamin, who had been serving as the organization’s philanthropy director, will be taking over for longtime Executive Director Peter Thompson, who retires in December.

“An accomplished and forward-thinking leader, Benjamin brings more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit development,” the Center at Belvedere said in a statement. “With strategic acumen and exceptional talent for communication and collaboration, she is ideally suited to lead planned growth in outreach, advocacy, and infrastructure.”

The Center at Belvedere, which opened in 1960, is a nonprofit organization which provides opportunities for older communities in the Charlottesville area to pursue healthy aging and combat loneliness and social isolation. Programming at the center just northeast of Charlottesville includes classes in the fine and performing arts, language, finances and fitness, social engagement and special events in order to meet the changing needs of older adults.

When she takes over as executive director on Nov. 1, Benjamin will be working alongside the organization’s board of directors to make healthy aging a priority in communities, in addition to expanding existing opportunities at the center, according to a statement from the group.

“I am excited and humbled to lead this vital community resource dedicated to healthy aging and look forward to working with the Board, my colleagues, community members, and partners to extend healthy life expectancy and quality of life for every older adult,” Benjamin said in a statement.

Benjamin began working as the center’s philanthropy director in April 2019, according to her resume. Before that, she served as director of development for a little more than three years at the Center for Open Science, a locally based technology nonprofit group. And before that, she worked for 14 years at the University of Virginia as a development director for regional programs and later faculty excellence as well as associate director of gift planning.

As philanthropy director at the Center at Belvedere, Benjamin “guides our philanthropy program, working to ensure we have the resources necessary to provide healthy aging programs to our community both today and in the future,” according to her center profile online.

Thompson, the center’s outgoing executive director, has had that role for roughly 24 years, having started in 1999.

“Thompson played a pivotal role in The Center’s growth and achievements during his tenure and the organization extends its gratitude for his remarkable leadership and dedication to healthy aging,” the center said in a statement.

The Center at Belvedere conducted a nationwide search for a new executive director to replace Thompson, employing Richmond-based firm Spark Mill in the hunt, before landing on Benjamin.

“Melanie brings together outstanding qualifications and an unwavering commitment to creating healthy aging opportunities for older adults in our community,” Christine Thalwitz, president of the center’s board of directors and co-chair of the committee tasked with finding a new executive director, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to have someone with her passion, insight, and innovative thinking lead the organization.”


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