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Mecklenburg Ministries leader resigning to take Greensboro post

Maria Hanlin, who has worked since 2005 to address social issues and forge interfaith relationships among 100 Charlotte congregations, is leaving the top post at Mecklenburg Ministries at the end of May.

She’ll be moving up the road to become the new executive director and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Greensboro.

“Habitat for Humanity has been part of my heart since the early 1990s,” Hanlin, 54, told the Observer on Monday. “I will greatly miss Mecklenburg Ministries and I urge donors and sponsors to support it more than ever. With the Boston bombings, we see again the vital importance of interfaith work. There’s so much more to do.”

An Alabama native who was a United Methodist minister for 20 years, Hanlin is known by clergy and activists in Charlotte as an exuberant proponent of consciousness-raising programs designed to knock down walls separating people of different traditions, backgrounds and races.

During her time as executive director of Mecklenburg Ministries – a socially liberal group that works to build understanding among Christians, Jews, Muslims, and people of other faiths – “MeckMin” initiated an interfaith youth camp; an “In Their Shoes” Homeless Awareness Walk; a “Friday Friends” lunch program for people of different backgrounds; and, in what was a first nationally, the building of two Habitat houses by all-clergy interfaith crews.

Since she took the job eight years ago, Mecklenburg Ministries has doubled its membership – from about 50 houses of worship to about 100. And attendance at its annual interfaith Thanksgiving service has also grown, from 350 people to more than 2,000.

“Maria has been the heart and soul of the faith community in Charlotte,” said Rose Hamid, president of Muslim Women of the Carolinas and a former Mecklenburg Ministries board member who participated in the search that led to Hanlin’s hiring. “Her spirit, enthusiasm and drive led to innovative programs which helped Charlotte to get to know ‘the other,’ whoever that ‘other’ might be.”

Hanlin also worked with Rabbi Judy Schindler of Temple Beth El to create three award-winning documentaries: “Souls of Our Students,” used by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in its anti-bullying curriculum; “Souls of Our Teachers,” which inspired congregations to volunteer in high-poverty schools; and “Souls of Our Neighbors,” which advocated for affordable housing.

“Maria has been a fearless spokesperson for social justice and a stellar bridge builder within the interfaith community,” Schindler said. “She has transformed the city for the better and her departure is a significant loss.”

Mecklenburg Ministries is in the beginning phase of finding a successor for Hanlin and probably won’t have one in place by May 31, said the Rev. Glencie Rhedrick, the group’s president and associate pastor at First Baptist-West Church.

Hanlin will be tough to replace, added Rhedrick. “She has led Mecklenburg Ministries to a new level of leadership in the community.”

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