Daily News

Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts Welcomes New CEO

Vanessa Pabón-Hernandez

SPRINGFIELD — The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts recently appointed Vanessa Pabón-Hernandez CEO of the philanthropic organization, effective June 17. A native of Springfield’s North End and a driven, longtime mentor of women and champion for social change and empowerment, Pabón-Hernandez succeeds Donna Haghighat in the key role for the nonprofit.

Throughout her 25-year career, Pabón-Hernandez has supported women and Latinx community members, first as a marketing strategist in business for herself and later in roles that include program director for the YMCA North End Youth Center, founder of a community-based digital storytelling center, and executive producer at New England Public Media, a role she left in early June after 14 years to accept the CEO position at the Women’s Fund.

Pabón-Hernandez has experience as a program developer, grant writer, mentor, facilitator, consensus builder, and storyteller, and she is excited to put her skills to work for the Women’s Fund. “I want to make a meaningful impact that’s less about program development and more about supporting the people who have the ideas,” she said. “I’ve been the one who has been dreaming big and creating programs of impact. Now, I want to support the dreams of others.”

Luzed Guzman Romano, current treasurer and incoming board co-chair for the Women’s Fund, said the board is excited about the opportunities that Pabón-Hernandez’s experience, determination, and leadership present. “We are all confident Vanessa’s leadership will drive the organization forward, continuing its mission to support and empower women, girls, and gender-expansive people in the region. In many ways, Vanessa’s life experience mirrors the reason why the Women’s Fund exists.”

Inspired by a strong, independent mother who helped facilitate her path, Pabón-Hernandez defied the odds several decades ago as a young, single mother, earning two associate degrees at Springfield Technical Community College before launching her own business as a marketing strategist for political candidates and area businesspeople.

She mastered the art of storytelling to advance social change, entered the nonprofit sector, and, over 25 years, led and founded innovative programs in marginalized communities that have allowed thousands of individuals to access resources, leverage their strengths, and drive their own career paths. She has received the Unsung Heroine award from the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women and was named to BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty. She was also the grand marshal for the Springfield Puerto Rican Parade.