When Mark Young was named Mesa United Way’s new president/CEO, he moved into a modest office near the front entrance and converted the former executive office into a conference room.
“We need more space to meet with our community partners and plan how we can become a better safety net for this community,” Young said. “We also need to be more open and transparent; that’s why I replaced the wooden doors on the new conference room with glass doors. Anyone who walks through our front door should be able to see what’s going on.”
Besides a ready smile, firm handshake and infectious laugh, Young brings a unique background to Mesa United Way. After moving to the Valley in 1996, he served as a youth pastor for 18 years while he and his wife raised their three daughters. An accomplished musician with his own band – Vinyl Update – Young incorporated fine arts into his ministry and graduated to executive pastor of his church. When Westminster College opened a Mesa branch in 2012 he took the student services director position and also taught English.
After Westminster closed in May 2015, Young joined Mesa United Way director of development. “It really was a perfect fit. Compassion for people in need; that’s who I’ve been. But you also have to manage effectively so you provide the maximum good for every dollar donated.”
Former Mesa City Councilmember Claudia Walters, who has served as interim CEO of Mesa United Way this past year, quickly recognized Young’s talent and passion and promoted him to executive vice president. Young became the obvious choice to succeed Walters when she stepped down on Oct. 1.
“Mark is passionate about creating collaborative environments and working with others to strengthen the community’s safety net,” Walters said. “He’s an ‘in-the-trenches, get-the-work-done guy,’ which is a great match with the philosophy of Mesa United Way.”
The board of directors agreed. “In searching for a new -resident/CEO for MUW, the executive committee wanted to find someone that would be an effective listener to the community as well as a charismatic leader for the organization,” said Brian Allen, board president. “In Mark Young, we found a person that possesses these skills and has a vision of what MUW should do to be a strong partner and advocate for our community in the future. It’s an exciting time for MUW and we look forward to seeing how Mark’s leadership helps MUW continue to serve the community in the most effective way possible.”
At a time when countless charities are seeking donations, and donors are wary of con artists, Mesa United Way must work harder than ever to build the community’s trust, Young said. “We need to be open and transparent, and we also need to more effectively get our message out. That message is: If you want to build a strong community and are unsure about which charity to give to, give to us. Mesa United Way is this community’s safety net.”
– Bob Schuster is a retired Arizona journalist and volunteer public information specialist for Mesa United Way.