In her first week on the job, Jeff Wieser took Jen Hrbek to lunch.
That simple gesture reinforced Positive Directions‘ new executive director’s impression that Westport is “a very special community.”
The CEO of Homes With Hope “took hours out of his busy day” to meet with and mentor Hrbek, she marvels. “I’d already felt a big hug from Westport. This made me feel even more welcome.”
Hrbek brings a wide-ranging resume to the helm of the well-respected Westport-based non-profit provider of alcohol and substance misuse prevention, and individual counseling services.
She combines 9 years’ experience helping small businesses grow, with a clinical background that includes work at Silver Hill and a private counseling agency.
She’s young, energetic — and ready to tackle some of the area’s most serious problems.
Growing up near Boston, Hrbek was involved in church activities, senior centers and soup kitchens. But she was an entrepreneur too, breeding rabbits with her brother and selling gimp bracelets at school.
Hrbek majored in human development and family services at the University of Connecticut. She volunteered with the homeless, worked as a family and civil defense monitor at the Stamford courthouse, then worked for a criminal attorney.
She considered law school — until her boss was indicted for obstruction of justice. “I had to get out of that field,” she says.
She spent nearly a decade at the Women’s Business Development Council. At the same time she earned a grad school degree from Fordham in social work. That led to her position at Silver Hill — the New Canaan hospital specializing in psychiatric and addiction disorders — along with part-time work as a counselor.
Hrbek calls Positive Directions “my dream job. It’s what I love. It marries my drive to build and grow organizations to their full capacity, with delivering clinical services.”
She says the agency is best known for substance abuse and gambling programs. She’d like to expand its “robust, multi-disciplinary clinical team” to include mood, anxiety, personality and eating disorders. Her goal is to be “the go-to resource for affordable counseling.”
In her first weeks on the job, Hrbek has been inspired by lunches like the one with Wieser. She’s impressed with the hands-on work of Positive Directions’ board.
She’s just 35 years old. But as she settles into her new job, it’s clear that Hrbek connects with people of all ages.
For the past decade, she volunteered weekly with Alzheimer’s patients. She’s also the mom of 2 kids, ages 3 and 1.
“We wake up blowing bubbles, and go to sleep after a dance party,” she says.
It’s clear: Whatever she does and wherever she goes, Jennifer Hrbek heads in a positive direction.