Elaine Pace wasn’t looking for a job when Atlantic Beach neighbor Linda Lanier — and fellow nonprofit veteran — told her about an opening in Jacksonville.

After 11 years of volunteering, then working for, then leading nonprofits in Florida, Mexico and Utah, the Orange Park High graduate had recently returned home. She was singularly focused on her decade-old consulting business.

But Pace, 53, was intrigued when she heard the details of that job opening from Lanier.

The Bridge of Northeast Florida, a 33-year-old nonprofit that serves at-risk inner-city youth, needed a new chief executive officer. She knew all about The Bridge from when she worked for the Jacksonville Community Council Inc., which played a leading role in its founding, she said. She knew The Bridge’s history and the huge impact it has had on youth and families.

“It just struck a chord,” she said.

So Pace decided she did want a new job after all. And The Bridge board of directors decided she was the one to lead “this world-class organization,” said chairman Brian King.

“Her wealth of experience and demonstrated leadership will guide The Bridge in its mission to … promote the development of healthy, productive, self-sufficient youth and families in greater Jacksonville,” he said.

Founded in 1982 in Springfield, the nonprofit provides educational and health services to about 3,500 low-income children in some of Jacksonville’s most impoverished neighborhoods.

After about three weeks on the job, Pace said Tuesday that her new duties had already proved inspiring. At a dinner for mentoring program participants, she watched adult mentors and their youth mentees bond and make pledges to each other. Even more compelling, she said, was that one of the mentors had been a Bridge mentee herself.

“It’s still giving me chills telling the story,” Pace said.

She said she

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