United Way of Will County on Thursday announced the retirement of Michael Hennessy, who has headed the organization for 31 years.
Hennessy's last official day as president and chief executive officer of the agency is Sept. 27.
“I will continue to be supportive of the United Way of Will County and all the good work it does,” he said in a written statement provided by the agency, which issued a news release to announce the retirement.
Sarah Oprzedek, vice president of operations and development, will serve as interim CEO and president while a search is conducted.
United Way of Will County has raised more than $102 million for its community partners under Hennessy's leadership, the release said.
“We have been blessed to have so many wonderful individuals, companies and organizations involved in our efforts to fulfill our mission,” Hennessy said. “I wish everyone affiliated with the United Way of Will County nothing but the best as they continue to make a significant impact to benefit the residents of Will County. The United Way of Will County will always have a special place in my heart."
Hennessy became CEO a year before the 1990 tornado that ripped through Plainfield, Crest Hill and Joliet posed what the United Way in its news release described as a "career-defining test" of his community leadership skills.
The tornado killed 29 people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage including flattening then-Plainfield High School and St. Mary Immaculate Church.
United Way Board Chair Tom Hernandez praised Hennessy for his dedication and service.
“Whatever is good about United Way, is largely because of him,” Hernandez said. “Mr. Hennessy is a passionate advocate for Will County residents in need."
The United Way release listed local nonprofits and community collaborations that Hennessy helped create.
They include South West Suburban Philanthropic Network, Day Break Homeless Shelter; Child Care Resource and Referral, Joliet Alliance for Youth, MAAP (Will County Community Needs Assessment), Will County Community Foundation now known as the Community Foundation of Will County, and Will County Disaster Relief Fund.
Hennessy began his career in public service in 1970 working on the psychiatric floor at St. Joseph Hospital in Joliet.
He also worked at what is now Aspire in Hillside as an administrator, social worker, and eventually development director.
He advanced to executive director of Cerebral Palsy of Will County before becoming president and CEO of United Way of Will County.