Jennifer Latour, executive director of United Way of Gordon County.

Jennifer Latour has always set her sights on working for a nonprofit, so when she saw a news release announcing the retirement of Vickie Spence as the executive director of United Way of Gordon County earlier this year, she decided to apply. And on April 15, Latour started in her new role.

A Dalton native, Latour graduated from Southeast Whitfield High School in 2009 before moving on to Dalton State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature. Following an internship with the United Way of Northwest Georgia in Dalton while still in school, she was hired as a volunteer coordinator for the organization. Later in her three-year stint with United Way, she ventured into the marketing side of things.

“I’ve always had a passion for what United Way does because I’ve seen firsthand that the funding goes exactly where it’s supposed to go,” she said. “It just called me back.”

The opening in Gordon County called Latour back from her marketing position with Dalton Utilities, where she worked for about two and a half years. But even though she left United Way, she continued to stay involved as a member of the Young Leaders Society.

“My long-term goal was always to work in nonprofit,” she said.

Though Latour is replacing Spence, who has led United Way of Gordon County since September 2006, the two will be working closely together until Spence’s retirement date in June. Spence is helping Latour through one of the organization’s major events, Dancing with the Stars Gets Schooled, which is set for May 30 and May 31.

“Vickie has done a wonderful job and is leaving an outstanding legacy, and I just hope I can continue the work that she has put in,” Latour said.

As for future plans, Latour said she still needs to meet with the board to discuss the strategy under her leadership. But one thought is to continue the progress cultivated by Spence on the way to reaching the $1 million mark, she said.

“Calhoun seems to be a very giving place and I would just love to let people know that I’m here to support Calhoun and to make sure the people of Calhoun have a fair chance. That’s the whole point of United Way, to connect everyone,” she said. “We are a two-person staff, so we will take things one step at a time.”

Latour hopes to continue to inspire local students to volunteer their time with United Way, so that when they enter their careers and move forward with their professional lives, they will understand the organization’s work and be willing to support it financially.

“United Way is a quick and fast way to learn what your community is doing, what it’s about and what’s out there to help people,” she said, adding that she personally experienced this while working with her local United Way in Dalton. “A lot of people know someone who has directly been impacted by United Way and one of its agencies.”

It’s in knowing how United Way and its agencies have helped those in her community which inspires her to further the organization’s reach and impact.

“It helps for me when you meet people who have been touched by United Way. It compels you even more to help,” she said. “Everyone is a paycheck away from needing a service. You want to have a good and quality service for these people to turn to.”

A service that extends a reaching hand to anyone who may suddenly be unemployed or surprised by a medical diagnosis, or needs a little extra help in paying rent or keeping the lights on at home, Latour said.