Amber Abney-Bass selected as new Jesus Center director

CHICO — The Jesus Center announced Amber Abney-Bayes will become its new executive director effective starting Jan. 1 2022.

Laura Cootsona will step down from her role as executive director Dec. 31 and will be replaced by Abney-Bass, the current chief operations manager who began working at the Jesus Center 7 years ago.

“We do not anticipate any big changes or any hiccups or any delays or slowing of the path we’re currently on,” Abney-Bass said.

Abney-Bass and Cootsona worked together for more than six years and started to plan the transition more than one year ago.

“If I needed some extra expertise or help, I knew that I could always count on Amber,” Cootsona said. “Her job description changed several times over the next six years — mostly to rise to the next opportunity to fill holes, to bring more professionalism to the team, and really to give me a partner in the works,” Cootsona said. “At this point it’s a natural handoff.”

As the new executive director at the Jesus Center, Abney-Bass will continue working with service providers; oversee its main housing program with 50 beds of shelters in 7 transitional houses; a vocational training program; and completion of the Renewal Center building.

The completion of the Renewal Center “continues to be a priority to strengthen our program to fit unmet needs in our communities — specifically families or couples who are experiencing homelessness,” Abney-Bass said. “That will not slow.”

The Jesus Center recently opened phase one of its Renewal Center located at 2255 Fair St. in Chico in May. One of Abney-Bass’s first projects as director will be overseeing the completion its second phase — a new 27,000-square-foot facility across the street that adds 100 beds to the program. The building is planned to break ground February 2022.

Toni Scott is the vice-chairman on the Jesus Center board of directors and helped oversee the transition.

“The success of our entire community in addressing homelessness really relies on our service providers, and our board considered it a strong responsibility that we have the strongest leadership possible here at the Jesus Center,” said Scott, referring to Abney-Bayes.

Scott said that Cootsona will transition into a consultant who will continue to raise private funds for the completion of the Renewal Center.

“The talent and expertise that we have between the both of them … I think sets up Chico to do the heavy lifting that we need to do to help the humans that are struggling here,” Scott said.

Scott said the best outcome for succession planning for the Jesus Center was to promote from within.

“Amber was a natural choice for us, but we also know her talent and expertise is something that even if there were a pool of a hundred people, we would still choose her.”

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